Irish-born Mary Green, now an assistant district attorney in the U.S., was named Prosecutor of the Year by the Texas District and County Attorneys Association.(TDCAA)
Green, whose tough reputation, was earned in part by securing death sentences and life terms for some of the highest-ranking members of the Texas Mexican Mafia, rise to success began from humble beginnings.
Green was born in Sligo Ireland to a teenage mother who was raped and who gave her up for adoption.
Given the nickname "Mean Mary" for her tough-as-nails reputation, Green's recognition was a rare honor. The award is given to one attorney chosen out of nearly 2,900 prosecutors who work in state district courts and county courts-at-law in Texas. It's even rarer for a non-elected one to be chosen, W. Clay Abbott of the TDCAA told My San-Antonio.
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"This was an exception," he said.
The award recognizes a prosecutor's body of work, and Green's 25 year career at the Bexar County District Attorney's Office, includes more than 100 serious felony jury verdicts and a conviction rate she estimates at about 95 percent.
“Mary is a prosecutor’s prosecutor,” wrote First Assistant District Attorney Cliff Herberg, who joined boss Susan Reed in nominating Green earlier this year. “She is considered in San Antonio to be a prominent expert, if not the pre-eminent expert, on the investigation and prosecution of major gang crime.
“As you can imagine,” Herberg continued, “she has received threats and intimidation tactics by some of the most dangerous criminals in the community.”
Green is quick to dismiss the dangers.
“I’m always very conscious of my surroundings, but I refuse to live in fear,” she said. “That sort of defeats the purpose.”
After reading "To Kill a Mockingbird" at age 10, she knew she wanted to be a lawyer, a dream she considered unobtainable since there were no lawyers in her family.
However, after earning two degrees in Austin and then working as a teacher -- and a waitress to make ends meet -- she decided she wasn't cut out for a career in education. She then moved to San Antonio to pursue a law degree at St. Mary's University.
Her stop in San Antonio was meant to be temporary, but then she interned at the district attorney's office.
“Being rather mouthy, I expressed my displeasure at spending my hard-earned tuition money on filing forms,” she remembered with a laugh, explaining that a veteran prosecutor working a murder trial decided to teach her a lesson. “He threw me into the courtroom and made me question a police officer on direct examination. I thought I was going to have a stroke, but I was hooked.”
Her career path veered into gang prosecution in 1997, when she took on “a really lousy double murder case” with no cooperating witnesses. No other prosecutors wanted it.
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The defendant was Robert “Beaver” Perez, then the general of the Texas Mexican Mafia. As she worked on the case, federal authorities also got interested and ended up trying him first. Linked to 15 gang-related shootings, Perez received a life sentence for racketeering. Green then tried him in state court for the double slaying, obtaining a death sentence for capital murder in 1999. He was executed four years ago.
Grant money awarded in 2006 created a special position at the district attorney’s office that allowed Green to focus solely on prosecuting gang members. It also allowed her to be dual-designated as a special assistant United States attorney
Green sat alongside federal prosecutors last year as they obtained three racketeering life sentences against the Mexican Mafia’s new general and two lieutenants. The 24 slayings outlined in the trial stemmed partly from the power struggle that ensued after Perez was taken down a decade earlier.
“It takes a certain amount of strength to do gang prosecution,” district attorney Reed said. “You have to be fearless, and she certainly is.”
Green said she refuses to let her work define her. She said her dogs, her friends, her frequent fishing trips to the coast and trips to Broadway shows reveal more about her than her interactions with convicted and soon-to-be convicted killers.
“There’s a lot more things out there,” she said. “If you dwell on things you deal with in my line of work, you might begin to believe this world is an ugly place, and I do not believe that.”