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Over the last couple of decades, Houston and the US have been following the trials of one of Houston’s most noted attorneys. Recently, he was awarded the Richard “Racehorse” Haynes Lifetime Achievement Award by his peers. This award may imply he is through practicing law, but for George Parnham he is far too busy making his case. In the recent decision in the highly publicized “murder for hire case” case against Brittany Martinez, Parnham, despite what seemed to be overwhelmingly against Mrs. Martinez, avoided jail time for his client. According to Parnham there “will be more when the full story is developed.” In this trial along with the Andrea Yates and Clara Harris trials, the issue of mental illness was at the forefront.

Parnham has a soft spot for the underdog that ‘“developed at a young age perhaps for a number of reasons, but mostly because of my father”, states Parnham in his clear and monotone voice. Born in 1940 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, George J. Parnham had studied to be a priest at a young age and helped build schools for sharecroppers in Alabama and Mississippi. He had always wanted to go to law school and become a criminal defense lawyer for as long a he can remember. After finishing his undergraduate schooling at Loyola University, Parnham graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin,Texas, where his career began. Not long after graduating from law school, Parnham said he “cut my teeth” on a case involving a father and son who were accused of bank robbery in Austin. Parnham soon found out that the prosecutor was going to seek the death penalty because the robbery had involved an ensuing shootout with the DPS. The jury hung in the case and George Parnham was on his way to a criminal defense career spanning more than forty years.

Following the Andrea Yates trial where the woman had been convicted of drowning her five children, Parnham had heeded the advice and tip from the media to expose a “professional testifier” who had received approximately $300,000 from the State to testify that in fact Andrea Yates knew what she was doing when she drowned her kids. Parnham had researched the previous trials where this expert witness for the prosecution had testified. After spending many weekends pouring over the case he realized that he needed a certain line of questioning to determine that this “expert’” on mental health had actually misled the jury, which led to the appeal and verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. “As bad and as tragic that this whole ordeal was, there is no doubt that the jury did the right thing” in the Andrea Yates case, according to Parnham. In this case maybe more than any other, the “light went on” for the serious nature of postpartum depression and mental health.

Postpartum depression, also called postnatal depression, affects primarily women after child bearing and can cause sadness, fatigue, sleeping and eating disorders, along with anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder has also been a culprit in many cases involving violence and the veteran. Far too many people suffer from this mental illness that is triggered by a terrifying event, such as war, and can last months or years and worsen over time without the correct diagnosis and treatment. Recently, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has a new mandate that works locally at our Houston VA Hospital and around the country at other VA Hospitals, which is to facilitate care and collaborate with the justice system in supporting our veterans with mental health issues.

After the Andrea Yates verdict, George and his wife Mary, wanted to form an organization that dealt with and supported women’s mental health issues. They had approached two separate women’s non-profits only to be turned down before contacting Betsy Schwartz, who at the time was CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. Together they established the Yates Children Memorial Fund which has screened to date almost 50,000 mothers in clinics and trained over 500 screeners. We have distributed over 500,000 brochures printed in Spanish, Vietnamese, and English. In 2002, legislation was passed that mandates hospitals and all birthing centers supply information on postpartum depression. The goal of the fund is to “help with the awareness of postpartum depression and prevent future tragedies from occurring.”

Defender of the Mentally Ill by William Hanover

Over the last couple of decades, Houston and the US have been following the trials of one of Houston’s most noted attorneys. Recently, he was awarded the Richard “Racehorse” Haynes Lifetime Achievement Award by his peers. This award may imply he is through practicing law, but for George Parnham he is far too busy making his case. In the recent decision in the highly publicized “murder for hire case” case against Brittany Martinez, Parnham, despite what seemed to be overwhelmingly against Mrs. Martinez, avoided jail time for his client. According to Parnham there “will be more when the full story is developed.” In this trial along with the Andrea Yates and Clara Harris trials, the issue of mental illness was at the forefront.

Parnham has a soft spot for the underdog that ‘“developed at a young age perhaps for a number of reasons, but mostly because of my father”, states Parnham in his clear and monotone voice. Born in 1940 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, George J. Parnham had studied to be a priest at a young age and helped build schools for sharecroppers in Alabama and Mississippi. He had always wanted to go to law school and become a criminal defense lawyer for as long a he can remember. After finishing his undergraduate schooling at Loyola University, Parnham graduated from the University of Texas School of Law in Austin,Texas, where his career began. Not long after graduating from law school, Parnham said he “cut my teeth” on a case involving a father and son who were accused of bank robbery in Austin. Parnham soon found out that the prosecutor was going to seek the death penalty because the robbery had involved an ensuing shootout with the DPS. The jury hung in the case and George Parnham was on his way to a criminal defense career spanning more than forty years.

Following the Andrea Yates trial where the woman had been convicted of drowning her five children, Parnham had heeded the advice and tip from the media to expose a “professional testifier” who had received approximately $300,000 from the State to testify that in fact Andrea Yates knew what she was doing when she drowned her kids. Parnham had researched the previous trials where this expert witness for the prosecution had testified. After spending many weekends pouring over the case he realized that he needed a certain line of questioning to determine that this “expert’” on mental health had actually misled the jury, which led to the appeal and verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity. “As bad and as tragic that this whole ordeal was, there is no doubt that the jury did the right thing” in the Andrea Yates case, according to Parnham. In this case maybe more than any other, the “light went on” for the serious nature of postpartum depression and mental health.

Postpartum depression, also called postnatal depression, affects primarily women after child bearing and can cause sadness, fatigue, sleeping and eating disorders, along with anxiety. Post-traumatic stress disorder has also been a culprit in many cases involving violence and the veteran. Far too many people suffer from this mental illness that is triggered by a terrifying event, such as war, and can last months or years and worsen over time without the correct diagnosis and treatment. Recently, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs has a new mandate that works locally at our Houston VA Hospital and around the country at other VA Hospitals, which is to facilitate care and collaborate with the justice system in supporting our veterans with mental health issues.

After the Andrea Yates verdict, George and his wife Mary, wanted to form an organization that dealt with and supported women’s mental health issues. They had approached two separate women’s non-profits only to be turned down before contacting Betsy Schwartz, who at the time was CEO of Mental Health America of Greater Houston. Together they established the Yates Children Memorial Fund which has screened to date almost 50,000 mothers in clinics and trained over 500 screeners. We have distributed over 500,000 brochures printed in Spanish, Vietnamese, and English. In 2002, legislation was passed that mandates hospitals and all birthing centers supply information on postpartum depression. The goal of the fund is to “help with the awareness of postpartum depression and prevent future tragedies from occurring.”