Law and Disorder

John O’Quinn amassed astronomical courtroom paydays, an outrageous car collection, luxury homes, and a list of mortal enemies to become the best (and richest) lawyer. A year after his death, he’s got a bitter, tawdry estate battle too.

  1. Darla Lexington sleeps in a very dark room in a very large bed, alone. Like a particular kind of Houston woman, the fact that she lives on the top floor of a luxury apartment building is a sign of reduced circumstances, though in her case the loss of an impressive River Oaks home resulted from a death instead of a divorce. The bedspread and curtains are black, giving the room the gloom of mourning. Beside the bed, leaning against the wall, is a large portrait of her lover of ten years, John O’Quinn, the infamous trial lawyer who died in a terrible car accident in the fall of 2009. Darla, who at 59 has the courtesan’s hourglass figure, the geisha’s will to please, and a soft, baby girl voice, talks to the portrait often, especially when she is lonely or sad or, as is frequently the case these days, really, really mad.

    Once, Darla was a happy person, and she still tries to be that way. “I’m a hugger,” she said as she embraced me the first time we met. She served drinks around the holidays with napkins that read “What happens under the mistletoe stays under the mistletoe.” Her eyes still gleam like a kid’s at Christmas when she recalls her life with O’Quinn—the multimillion-dollar shopping sprees for art and cars (27 Duesenbergs!), the first-class trips to far-off locales (China for the Olympics!), the five-thousand-acre riverfront ranch near Wimberley, and the birthday parties featuring the likes of Jerry Lee Lewis. (O’Quinn’s sixtieth, in 2001, cost $250,000 and had a retro ...