Legal Ethics

Excessive-Fees Case Focuses on Lawyer's Media Strategy in Murder Trial

A criminal defense attorney on trial in Texas for allegedly overcharging his client in a high-profile murder case was accused in opening statements today of focusing on his own publicity to the detriment of defendant Clara Harris. Television camera crews conducted interviews and filmed the murder trial preparation, under an embargo agreement, and attorney George Parnham also reportedly agreed to work with an author on a book about the case.

But counsel for Parnham contends that Harris—a dentist who is now serving a 20-year sentence for running over her husband with her Mercedes in a hotel parking lot, after reportedly finding him with another woman—understood and agreed with the media strategy for the murder case, according to the Houston Chronicle.

Charles “Chip” Babcock told the jury that Harris is a “controlling, hands-on, Type A woman” who consented to every step of the media strategy.

Her lawyer, Dean Blumrosen, contended that Parnham “was promoting himself and by law he has a duty to represent his client’s interest above his own.”

Harris’ suit against Parnham accuses him of breaching his fiduciary duty to her and violating the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices and Consumers Protection Act. She is seeking to have a $300,000 promissory note to him that she signed while under Harris County Jail psychiatric care voided, the newspaper reports. There was no written fee agreement.

Harris’ murder of her husband became infamous in part because a private detective she hired to tail her husband videotaped the parking lot incident.

Earlier Coverage:

KPRC: “Clara Harris Sues Former Attorney”

New York Times: ” Woman Who Killed Spouse With Car Is Guilty of Murder”

Associated Press: “Clara Harris Found Guilty of Murder”

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