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Richard "Racehorse" Haynes (1927 -)

A legendary, colorful, and flamboyant Texas criminal defense attorney, Richard "Racehorse" Haynes has been called “one of the most successful and most colorful silver-tongued devils to grace Texas since God made trial lawyers,” by Texas Monthly magazine. He was once referred to as one of the top six criminal lawyers in America by Time magazine. Haynes himself credits Percy Foreman as being one of his mentors and often quoted samples of Foreman’s advice, such as, "If you can prove the victim abused a dog or a horse, you can convince the jury that the guy deserved to be killed."

Early Life


Haynes was born in San Antonio, TX, in 1927. In high school, he played football, where he gained the nickname “Racehorse”  because of his coach's alleged complaints that Haynes always ran for the sidelines rather than downfield. Despite his lack of football prowess, Haynes was a highly-regarded amateur boxer during high school. After graduation, he joined the Marines, fought at Iwo Jima, and returned to the States to attend college and law school on the G.I. Bill. Upon receiving his degree from the Bates Law School (now the University of Houston Law Center) in 1956,  Haynes began trying cases and has never stopped.  

Haynes, Richard “Racehorse”. 14" x 18". 2005. Collection of Cogdell Law Firm. Houston, TX. Portrait on canvas. Commissioned by Dan Cogdell.


Haynes has tried hundreds of criminal cases in Texas, including some of the most famous cases in the state. In 1977, he successfully defended Fort Worth oil man T. Cullen Davis on charges of murder and attempted murder. Just two years later, Davis was charged with hiring a hit man to murder the judge presiding over his divorce case, but Haynes was able to demonstrate his innocence once more.  Legend has it that Haynes was out sailing on his yacht, “Integrity,” when the call came that Davis had been arrested for the new crime. When a guest asked Haynes what the new arrest meant, Haynes replied, “A bigger sailboat?” [His client's] acquittal on the murder charge set the Texas standard for the battered spouse defense.

Another well-known case concerned Vickie Daniel, a former Dairy Queen worker who in 1981 shot her husband, the son of a former state governor. Haynes presented evidence of their turbulent relationship to convince the jury that his client was acting in self defense. Her acquittal on the murder charge set the Texas standard for the battered spouse defense. In 2009, Haynes told a reporter he had represented at least three dozen cases of women shooting their physically abusive husbands, which he refers to as “the Smith & Wesson defense.”

Haynes speaks at continuing legal education events across the country, charming audiences with his courtly but passionate presence. He particularly enjoys teaching trial practice to  young attorneys, often telling war stories and re-enacting cross examinations and closing arguments. One oft-given piece of advice about having a back-up defense: “Say you sue me because you say my dog bit first defense is that my dog doesn’t bite. The second defense, in the alternative is that my dog was tied up that night. And third, I don’t believe you really got bit. Finally, I don’t have a dog!”

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