Criminal Defense Attorney David Houston dies at 69

Published: Dec. 14, 2021 at 5:26 PM PST
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The large desk sits empty now, but it could barely contain the giant personality of the man who sat behind it. Criminal Defense Attorney David Houston used to hold court in his office, many times talking about the merits of the latest case he was about to defend.

“But I tell you when you heard Dave Houston; if your son or daughter or family member was in trouble and someone said you need to find a good lawyer,” says Scott Freeman, Senior Judge with Washoe District Court.

Judge Freeman says his relationship with Houston started back in the late seventies. The now judge was a then bar manager at the Mt. Rose Ski Resort. Houston was a ski instructor and told Freeman to look him up once Freeman graduated from law school.

“Dave was a very, very good teacher. He again was very patient and very result oriented,” says Judge Freeman. Judge Freeman would eventually start his own practice.

Houston would sometimes call on him to work on the many many high profile cases Houston tackled over the years.

Examples include defending children in school, one who brought a gun and fired it, the other a knife and threatened students with it. A police officer accused of telling a teenage girl to disrobe in the back of his vehicle in order to get out of a sobriety test. That officer was acquitted. He defended the husband of a Nevada State Treasurer accused of injecting her with Succinylcholine.

“He was like a dog with a bone,” says Freeman. And he adds, “And sometimes he invented the bone. And he would go after it after he invented it……he was the most brilliant lawyer I have ever seen.”

Houston went to Florida to represent former professional wrestler Hulk Hogan who sued Gawker, a blog, which revealed a sex tape of Hogan. A jury awarded Hogan and in part Houston $140,000,000 in damages.

The very nature of the cases could have painted Houston in a bad light considering what his clients were accused of. But like many criminal defense attorneys he wanted to make sure his clients were treated fairly.

“He was the top man, the top dog among Reno criminal defense attorneys,” says Martin Wiener, another other local criminal defense attorney. “And I think an intelligent judge would think wow this will be interesting I’ve got David Houston in my court representing a client,” says Wiener.

In the late 90s Houston would host “Lawyers, Guns, and Money” along with Freeman--a half hour show where the two interviewed local and national figures. Some were infamous like brothel owner Dennis Hoff. Some guests had unique perspectives like psychologist Dean Hinitz. They interviewed Nevada Governors, and federal agents.

His friends and colleagues say he died suddenly and would have appeared in court as of yesterday--and that is how he would have wanted it.

Asked what will be missed most?

“Everything,” says Judge Freeman.

David Houston is survived by his wife and two sons.

He was 69.

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