New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - April 19, 1983, New Braunfels, Texas
4 New Braunfels Hera\d-Zoitung Tuesday, April 19,1983OpinionsHerald-Zeitimg
Dave Kramer, General Manager Robert Johnson, EditorViewpointSome reflections on the Savage trial
It’s both easy and a little unfair to second-guess a jury and a prosecutor. And after William Dale Savage, convicted of involuntary manslaughter because he was drunk when his car struck and killed a local Mexican-American man, received a probated sentence, the second-guessing began in earnest.
Four Comal County Jail inmates began a hunger strike Saturday to protest the verdict and to press for more charges against Savage, who, in addition to Ruben Sauceda, also killed his pregnant wife and two children in the wreck last October. Savage received a 10-year probated sentence Thursday for taking Ruben Sauceda’s life.
Suzanne Hildebrand, president of the San Antonio chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, said, “The attitude of the jury and the prosecutors tells people ifs all right to go out and kill someone and buy your way out of it.” Two letter-writers protested the verdict. One
suggested it means “open season” on Mexican-Ame deans.
The reaction is understandable. It’s hard to imagine something more tragic than an entire family wiped out in a flash, thanks to a drunk driver. The verdict no doubt upset plenty of people, and the jury is the obvious target.
But we didn’t sit in that jury box with the 12 folks who had to pass judgment on William Dale Savage. We learned about the trial through the newspaper page, which is roughly akin to reading sheet music instead of going to the concert. We didn’t see the faces, or hear the emotion-charged voices. We didn’t hear the testimony, the argument, the judge’s instructions, the discussion in the jury room.
So before we castigate the jury, it might be wise to put ourselves in their place. In this case, 12 of our Comal County friends and neighbors, including two Mexican-Americans, voted unanimously for probation. You and I
can criticize from the sidelines, but if we’d been in the game, we might have made the same decision.
Criticism has also been directed at District Attorney Bill Schroeder, which is hard to understand. Schroeder did his job. He took his best case and prosecuted it to the hilt. He got his conviction for the higher offense — involuntary manslaughter — rather than for the lesser charge of criminally negligent homicide. He asked for jail time. What else could he have done?
It also seems pointless to bring Savage back to court on the other three charges. Savage might have received jail time had he been tried for all four deaths at once, but the law doesn’t work that way in Texas. Each of the four deaths counts as a separate offense, and has to be tried separately.
The case involving the death of Ruben
Sauceda was his best case, Schroeder said. Trying another one merely to get another probation verdict seems pointless.
Suppose, just for a moment, that Schroeder did press another count against Savage. In the wake of the first verdict, there’s a good chance the second trial might be moved out of Comal County on a change of venue motion due to prejudicial publicity. It would be hard to find prospective jurors who hadn’t heard about the first trial. If the trial wasn’t moved, that in itself would mean an instant appeal if a conviction was obtained by a jury bent on revenge.
Nobody ever said being a juror was easy, and the Savage jury is finding that out. If, after careful deliberation, you can honestly say the verdict was unfair, fine. Remember, the next time, it might be you in the jury box being asked to pass judgment on a stranger who says he’s sorry for what he’s done.Mailbag
Inmates seek support for hunger strike
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Input wanted on child-seat bill
To Whom It May Concern:
We the inmates in Comal County jail in New Braunfels need your support rn bringing a killer to justice. We use the word killer because that is what he did to a New Braunfels Chicano family. He ran them down, and now he walks the street a free killer.
He was brought to court on one of the killings, and was given IO years probation with a 15,000 fine. He should have been charged with the killing of (51 five, and not only one. The mother was carrying a baby, and the court never even charged him with that.
We the inmates at the Comal County jail are "mad” and want justice done. We want him to stand trial for all < 5) five killings. We are sure that if a Chicano man had ran a white family of (5) five down, he wouldn’t have gotten IO years probation. It is a fact that the City of New Braunfels, Texas is very prejudiced toward Chicanos and Chicano families. When a Chicano breaks the law in New Braunfels the first thing the District Attorney Mr. Bill Schroeder wants to do is send that Chicano to prison.
Mr. Bill Schroeder should have filed the rest of the killings on the killer William Savage as by law. He now walks the street a free killer and only the I>ord know who he will kill next.
We the inmates at the New Braunfels jail want justice done, and want that killer off the streets before he kills one of our kids or loved ones.
We know that a lot of you out there feel the same way we do, so please give us your support in bringing this killer to justice. How many more times must he kill before you realize that he is a real killer.
The District Attorney Mr. Bill Schroeder who allowed such killers back on the streets, said he will not file any more charges. Well, we are asking your support, and ask you to see that charges are filed. We are asking for your support for justice, and are also writing “MAD Mother,’’ newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations for support. Please give us your support. We are just a few, but with you we are many.
We the inmates are gomg on a hunger strike, and wil^f$rike until justice is one. We need your support in bringing this killer to justice because the family he killed was our family as well as yours. We will be praying for your support. 'Hiank you for your time
and concern in this matter.
We care, “MAD" Inmates Juan M. Lopez Richard E. Willis Margarito Maldonado Gilbert C. Gonzales
Muehleisen thankful for county support
To the Editor:
This is a letter of appreciation to the members of the Commissioners Court for their support to the volunteers of Comal County. The recent announcement of a cut in Federal Revenue Sharing funds and their decision to place the needs of volunteer organizations first was an upfront declaration of the importance of these groups in the County.
In our society today it is almost impossible to find people who are not involved in work, play, and activities that keep them without time for themselves. This extends to children in grade school and to the retired and what many think of as elderly. I would like to bring this last group into focus by saying that in the “retired” or “elderly" group we find some of the busiest people in our communities.
There are people from all groups of society that are busy, active and productive in the volunteer field. These people were often not offered a role in community involvement in the past, but today’s times and the economy have made their contribution a necessary part of meeting community needs with community resources.
The driving of the Senior Citizens van by a volunteer on a daily basis, an assistant at the Center who works every day and feels a great obligation to her “job". Retired people accept and handle jobs in the type of work they did when still in the business world, jobs they have never done before, take on responsibilities, give guidance, extend friendship, and are there when called on. They ask very little in return; they are wise and loving people, but they do deserve to be recognized as a useful and vital force in their communities.
The action of the Commissioners Court recognized their efforts. Thank you members of that Court.
Fran Muehleisen Executive Director, Canyon Lake Action Center, Inc.
By EDMUND KUEMPEL Stat* Rap.. Dist. 48
Although much legislation appears to have necessary and practical solutions to preceded problems in our society, close examination sometimes reveals hidden difficulties with the proposals. Current bills addressing the issue of child safety restraints are excellent examples of this.
HB3 and SB6 require children under the age of four years to be restrained while in moving vehicles. The justification behind these bills is the large number of deaths and injuries of children involved in car accidents in Texas. Between 1978 and 1980, Texas led the nation in auto-related deaths of
children up to the age of four. In 1980 alone, 5,418 children were killed or injured while traveling in Texas automobiles according to Senate testimony. Of the states which currently have such laws, Tennessee has cut the fatalities of children in the affected age group by 50 percent.
An infant unrestrained in a car accident can become a flying missile with a force of 30 times its own weight. In simulated accidents, mothers were unable to hold small test dolls even when they knew impact was about to occur.
Although it is believed that child restraints may reduce these figures, a law mandating such restraints may not. The difficulties with enforcement
arid implementation of such a law could overshadow its potential effectiveness
No feasible plan for enforcement has yet been devised for child restraint laws. This task would surely place a greater burden on our state law enforcement agencies, taxing the already strained pool of available manpower. Not only does Texas lack the resources for enforcement, but violations of the law would be extremely difficult to ascertain.
Because these bills specify an age, knowledge of the age of a child to determine a possible violation would be necessary. The added obstacle of trying to distinguish between a restrained and unrestrained child in a moving vehicle makes enforcement difficult at best.
Implementing these laws also poses problems. For those parents unable to afford the restraining devices (the cost ranges from $25 to $50), volunteer and charitable organizations would provide them. Ultimately this could result in taxpayers supplying the added funds if voluntary efforts could not meet the demand for seats.
Another factor which merits examination lies in the nature of the
proposed laws. By legislating this matter, the state could be interfering with a parent’s discretion. Therefore, if the legislation passes, it carries with it the possibility of opening the door for similar violations of individual rights by the state government.
As of March, 1983 , 23 states have enacted child restraint laws, with legislation pending in two more. Most laws are similar to the proposed bills and five mandate some form of public education as well.
There are some suggested alternatives to passing a mandate for child restraints that might afford a workable solution. The Texas Statewide Coordinating Council, for example, supports public eduction of the need to use effective and reasonable restraints. A program using an approach such as this could have the same results as the legislation without the undesired side effects.
Because this issue is of great concern to all Texas citizens, your opinion on the subject is of great value to legislatures. In order to help me better evaluate the situation, I would appreciate your feelings on this issue.
Gov Mark Whit# Governor s Office Room 200 State Capitol Austin. Tease 7S701
Rap Edmund Kuempel Tease House of Representatives P O Boa 2S10 Austin. Teaes 7S7SS
Ban. John Trosper Taaae Banat* Capitol Ste iron Austin. Taaaa 7*711