South Texas College of Law Alum Loses Suit After Proving Prosecution’s Theory of a Case

February 5th, 2014

This is something of an odd story. In 2006, a defense lawyer made a challenge on Dateline–if you can prove that the prosecutor’s theory in a murder case was possible, he would pay you $1 million. So of course, a law student at my school, the South Texas College of Law took him up on the challenge.

Kolodziej was a student at South Texas College of Law when he saw the televised NBC Dateline interview in which Mason promised to pay $1 million to anyone who could prove the prosecution’s theory of a case against his client. Prosecutors had alleged that the defendant, shown on a security camera at a hotel several hours before and after a quadruple murder in Florida, used an alias to fly to Florida, committed the murders, flew back to Atlanta under a different alias, and returned to the hotel 28 minutes after the flight landed.

Kolodziej took the flight and drove to the hotel in less than 28 minutes, recording his performance of the challenge. He sent Mason a letter seeking to collect the money.

In the televised interview, the reporter summarized the prosecution theory and Mason’s comment followed. “I challenge anybody to show me—I’ll pay them a million dollars if they can do it,” he said. “Twenty-eight minutes, can’t happen. Didn’t happen.

Did the lawyer have to pay out? Nope. There was no mutual assent.

A Florida lawyer who promised in a television interview to pay $1 million to anyone who could disprove his client’s alibi won’t have to pay the Texas lawyer who tried to collect, a federal judge has ruled.

In a decision issued last week, U.S. District Judge Charlene Edwards Honeywell ruled against San Antonio lawyer San Dustin Kolodziej, who was a law student when he first tried to collect. The Volokh Conspiracyand Courthouse News Service covered the opinion (PDF).

The problem, Honeywell said, was that Kolodziej was acting on edited comments by Florida lawyer James Cheney Mason that didn’t reflect his true offer. As a result, there was no mutual assent, Honewell said.