Lock ‘Um Up, Lock ‘Um Up, Throw Away the Key

The men of Death by Injection can argue your case during the day, and rock your socks off at night.

Published in 2003 Texas Super Lawyers — November 2003

As lawyers, they listen to their clients, and as musicians, they listen to their fans. It was one of those fans, or rather a member of an audience, who gave this Houston-based band its name: “Death by injection,” he said, was exactly the punishment the band deserved for playing its music in public. Fortunately, over the last two decades, the musical talent of Death by Injection has improved dramatically, and this year the self-dubbed “Texas Crime Music” band is celebrating its success with its first album.

What began as an ad hoc group assembled to play the 1983 Harris County District Attorney’s holiday party has blossomed into a household name, at least in the homes of many legal constituents in Houston. Today Death by Injection consists of Scott Durfee and Bill Delmore, two assistant district attorneys; Doug O’Brien and David Mitcham, two criminaldefense attorneys; and one former district attorney, Glenn Gotschall, who is currently teaching the Texas penal code to the Houston police academy class. The only non-attorney in the band is Hal Kennedy, a Houston Police Department homicide detective.

For more than twenty years, these legal eagles have displayed their talent in hundreds of public and private performances, including legal and political fundraisers, bar-related events, and several charitable causes (including the American Cancer Society, the American Heart Association, and the Ronald McDonald House), throughout Texas.

The band began as a classic-rock group playing music primarily from the fifties, sixties, and seventies, with thirty-something prosecutors heralding the lead roles. Since then it has evolved into an band playing original songs written from their experiences in the courtrooms of the Harris County Courthouse. “They sing about what they know,” says Clayton Rawlings, an attorney with Hampton & Rawlings in Houston and a former member of the band, who retired his drums when his fifth child was born.

Titles such as “Witness Stand” and “The Price You Pay” grace the band’s first album, Down at the Courthouse, released in November 2002. The first song on the CD, “Don’t Say Nothing ’til the Lawyer Come,” was recorded live at a charity benefit in May 2002. ”Lock’um Up, Lock’um Up, Throw Away the Key” is a catchy chant that can really get your toes tapping. Fans from across disciplines pack Houston’s nightclubs to hear the band play its stuff, including tunes from the new CD. Thousands of screaming fans also attend Houston’s annual open-air concert, Party on the Plaza, where Death by Injection has played five times.

As Rawlings says in his official Super Lawyer nomination letter, “These lawyers have made a valuable contribution to the legal community here in Harris County, providing a bridge of common ground between the prosecutorial and the criminal defense factions contained within the criminal justice system.” Indeed.Because of the success of the first album and because the band members continue to glean new material from their legal professions, Death by Injection plans to release its second recording by the end of 2003 or as early as possible, says David Mitcham, guitarist, vocalist, and songwriter.

Words are important to this band’s music. The lyrics to “Witness Stand,” one of the songs on the CD, are reproduced here as a sample.

WITNESS STAND By S. DurfeeGonna sing my songGonna tell my taleGotta listen to meHere on the witness stand

It wasn’t meIt was anotherIt was my brotherI was in Tennessee

Don’t look at meI’m not the oneIt’s not my gun

FingerprintsThey do lieDNA?I’ve got an alibiThey set me upTo send me downI was too closeThey want me out of town

Don’t look at meI didn’t do itAnd you can’t prove it

What’s more to say?I’ve told you trueDon’t b’lieve me?Why would I lie to you?

Set me freeIt wasn’t meTruth’s at handHere on the witness stand—The Death by Injection CD is available through the band’s Web site at www.deathbyinjection.com.

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