ABOUT ED CHERNOFF
I was born in 1962, and grew up in Florida. I lived in a trailer, and that is about all I remember from my childhood. I attended University of Florida and received an accounting degree in 1984. University of Houston Law Center offered me a scholarship, and since I couldn't afford law school any other way, this is where I went. I paid for living expenses by working nights at a pest control company. I didn't have a car, and rode a scooter down the feeders of the Gulf Freeway to get to work. I liked Houston and made plans to stay. After law school I was recruited by the Harris County District Attorney's office, and I joined that group in 1987. At the “office” I tried 70 jury trials. I won all but one felony trial, and surprisingly, this is the only case I can remember after all this time!
Ed Chernoff in famous trial.
I had a good career with the Harris County District Attorney. At the time, the “office” kept statistics on trial numbers. A list was passed out at the end of the year, ranking various levels of trial success. I was the lead Assistant DA for cases tried and won until 1991, when I left the DA's office.
Before I left the office, I could see a philosophical difference developing between my fellow prosecutors and I. It was at the tender age of 28, when I began questioning some of the policies I was asked to enforce. For instance, small drug possession cases were first degree felonies back then. An individual arrested for three crack pipe cases had the potential to go to prison from 25 years to life. We were instructed not to drop enhancements in those cases, but I did so anyway. Fortunately, nobody ever called me to the mat on that one.
In 1991, with dramatic flare, I took a leave of absence from the DA's office. I bought a motorcycle and took a three month tour of the United States. I survived, which I considered to be a good sign. When I returned, my heart was no longer into prosecution. I left a few months later and started my own law practice, dedicated to representing those unfortunate souls accused of running afoul of the law. To be honest, I had no idea what I was doing.
I was “loaned” an office and I began taking appointments as a criminal defense lawyer. I got a phone line, which I still have today! My first appointment was for a man charged with robbing a Stop n Go. The robbery was on video, though it wasn't of very high quality. This was 1992 after all. My client told me he was innocent and I had no reason to disbelieve him, other than that the person in the video looked a hell of a lot like him. Nevertheless, we tried the case and he was acquitted. I liked the feeling. This poor guy was depending on me to save his future, and although he hadn't chosen me per se, he was depending on me. I really liked my role in all of that.
I tried many successful cases after that. My reputation grew, and people began hiring me. In 1995, I was recommended and received the Board Certification in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. I have been certified ever since. As the years went on, I obtained acquittals and dismissals for clients accused of Family Assault, Sexual Assault, DWI, Indecency of a Child, Capital Murder, Motions to Revoke Probation, Theft and Drug Offenses, among others. I was doing pretty well for myself, and I had developed relationships with clients that I cherished.
In 2001, I hooked up with two other fine lawyers and we formed the law firm of Stradley, Chernoff and Alford. I was the patriarch and we prospered. I go married and raised a family. I tried dozens of criminal trials and enjoyed tremendous success. In one year, I won every single one of my jury trials. This naturally added to my fame. Also, during this period, I hired several young lawyers and trained them in the art of criminal defense. They have their own firms now and are doing very well. Some of my young lawyers went to work for the Harris County DA's office. Some are still there today!
In 2013, I went off on my own and named my law firm, Chernoff Law. My success continued. Through the years, I have become known throughout the country for handling high profile cases. I have been featured on CNN, The Today Show, TruTV, ABC News, The Houston Chronicle and The New York Times for cases I have handled. I'm not sure what that means, since most of my clients are not famous, and most of their cases are not notorious. However, it appears that most of my clients like the fact that I have the ability, demeanor and confidence to handle high publicity cases.
Let me give you some examples of cases I have handled. I believe I currently hold the record for the quickest acquittal in the Southern District of the United State Courts. After a week long trial, a federal jury acquitted my client after only 15 minutes of deliberations! I remember vividly the look on the Judge's and U.S. Attorney's faces when that one came in. Priceless. My client had been charged with hacking into the computer system of the Harris County District Clerk. The FBI agent who investigated the hack testified that my client confessed to the intrusion. That turned out not to be the case, and the agent admitted during cross examination that he lied to my client.
In another case in Montgomery County, a prominent Woodland's woman was accused of felony theft by her very rich ex-boyfriend. It caused quite a firestorm. Despite my best efforts, I simply could not convince the elected District Attorney at the time to dismiss. Obviously, their case was based on a lie from a vengeful ex. During the trial, I brought in another ex-girlfriend from California to testify that this ex pulled the exact same maneuver on her! My client was acquitted, and the foreman penned a letter on the back of the jury instructions blaming the District Attorney for taking the case to court in the first place. This unusual rebuke made the front page of the Houston Chronicle.
Beaumont is an odd place. It has a large population, but everybody seems to know one another. I was hired to represent a well known auto dealer, who was accused of pulling a gun and threatening the richest man in town. If you are from Beaumont, you probably know who I'm talking about. We went to trial, and each morning the local news stations lined the walkway hoping to get a glimpse of both parties. The story led the nightly broadcast. I had one of my many Perry Mason moments in this trial, when the billionaire “victim” admitted that my client had a metal cast and brace on the arm with which he was supposed to have been holding a gun. The jury acquitted.
I have handled many cases throughout the United States, and have tried a number of famous cases, but the one that I am most asked about is the case I handled in Los Angeles. In 2009, my client, a medical Doctor, was accused of killing pop icon Michael Jackson. The case dragged on for two years, through motion settings, preliminary examination and trial. I was back and forth from Houston to California every week. It very nearly destroyed my practice, and probably did contribute to the eventual break up of Stradley, Chernoff and Alford. I doubt that any trial in history received the amount of publicity that this one did. On the day of closing arguments, the police blocked off the street in front of the courthouse and set up bleachers for curious onlookers. Frankly, it looked like a parade!
You probably know already that I didn't win this trial. However, my client only spent two years in the Los Angeles County jail, which is in some respects a victory. If he had been convicted of Murder, he would still be in prison today. The trial had lots of dramatic moments, and was broadcast live every day. However, most of the real drama occurred behind the scenes. One day I will write a book, but if you want to see what happened in court, you can watch the entire trial on YouTube.
Through 30 years of private practice, I have dedicated myself to taking care of my clients and their families. I have tried over 150 jury trials and represented thousands of souls who needed me to prevent the government from taking their families, livelihood and liberty. My client's matter to me and fortunately I am very good at what I do. I have often said, you can find out who a person is by asking him to describe themselves in just one word. Well, I'm a lawyer. I hope that one day if you are in trouble, you will let me help you.