How to Defend a Solicitation of Capital Murder Case

In the last two years, no case pending in the Criminal Courts of Harris County has drawn more local, national and international attention than the failed attempts by Michelle Gaiser to murder Yvonne Stern. To refresh your memory, Yvonne’s husband, Jeffrey Stern, admitted he had an extramarital affair with Michelle Gaiser. At some point along the way, Michelle Gaiser hired three different hit men to kill Yvonne. In the process, she also attempted to have someone kill one of the hit men that bungled the job.

The story turned tragic when one of Gaiser’s hired assassins finally succeeded in shooting Yvonne Stern. Michelle Gaiser was arrested, confessed and subsequently implicated Jeff Stern in the plot. Gaiser originally cut a deal in her case and agreed to cooperate with the government in their cases against her soldiers of fortune and Jeff Stern in exchange for a cap on the number of years she would be sentenced to.  She first took the stand as a witness in the case against the alleged shooter. The jury found Gaiser’s testimony slightly less than credible. With tears rolling down her face she told the jury how sorry she was.

She was so sorry that while sitting in the Harris County Jail she wrote a letter attempting to hire someone to kill Jeffrey Stern. If Michelle Gaiser would have succeeded in everything she set out to do, the Stern children would be orphans today. Later, the case against Jeffrey Stern was dropped after the veneer began to crack on the State’s star witness.

Solicitation of murder is a first degree crime with a punishment range from 5 -99 years in the Texas Department of Corrections. Michelle Gaiser was given a total of 20 years. The Harris County District Attorney’s Office regularly seeks input from victims when it comes to punishing offenders.  In this case, the victim, Yvonne Stern, who dutifully cooperated with the DA’s office throughout this string of events (even while they were attempting to wrongfully incarcerate her husband), was not in the loop.  She only found out about the deal given to Michelle Gaiser 15 hours before the plea was to take place. To say that she did not agree with it, especially after what she had previously been led to believe would happen, would be an understatement.  There was something about the possibility of Michelle Gaiser possibly walking the streets in as few as eight years that she found disconcerting.

I usually laud excellent deals defense attorneys get for their clients, but this one does not pass the smell test. It is almost like the defense team for Michelle Gaiser held a political fundraiser for Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos or something.  Perhaps I am being cynical and it was just good lawyering.

If nothing else, this case gives me a whole new approach to defending solicitation of murder cases.  On my next case, I may suggest that my client simply solicit another murder after his/her arrest to see if I can achieve the same great outcome.

Rand Mintzer is a criminal defense lawyer in Houston. If you are seeking legal advice, contact attorney Mintzer at 713-862-8880.