New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - February 6, 1985, New Braunfels, Texas
Legislators say Texans want tougher crime laws
AUSTIN (AP) — A group of lawmakers who are pushing anti-crime legislation say Texans want their legislature to get tough with criminals.
“The legislature’s chief obligation is to provide for the safety of the citizens of the state. That’s what the people ... were saying over and over and over again,” Sen. J.E. “Buster” Brown, R-Lake Jackson, said Tuesday.
Brown and other lawmakers joined the Associated Texans Against Crime in backing bills to stiffen criminal laws.
One bill, endorsed by House Speaker Gib Lewis, would expand the death penalty to include killers who slay more than one person — either in sequence or at one time. Current law allows the death sentence for killing a law officer or killing while committing some other felonies.
“We’ve all seen many cases recently in which people embark on killing sprees. They cannot receive the maximum sentence, the death penalty. They can receive only life imprisonment,” said Rep. Patricia Hill, R-Dallas.
A second bill would allow judges to tell jurors — before they consider punishment — the effects of parole laws that allow convicts early release from prison.
“All too often, we’ve had juries who are surprised at the net result of when somebody comes out of prison,” said Rep. Ray Keller, R-Duneanville.
Keller, chairman of the House Law En-
forcement Committee, said the law should be changed “so we can ensure that the blinders are taken off juries and that the punishment is guaranteed to be equal to the crime committed.” Brown said other measures would improve the treatment of victims.
Those would “allow the victim prior to sentencing to make a statement to the judge or jury about the effect of that crime on their lives” and permit victims to remain in court throughout a trial to help prosecutors.
“Both of them would show the victims of crime that we are going to recognize them and we are going to make them feel a part of the system, and that the system is working for them and not for the benefit of the people who are accused of crimes and convicted of crimes,” Brown said.
Other bills being backed by the lawmakers include measures to:
— Clamp down on the early release of prison inmates. Brown said details of the plan aren’t yet ready, but insisted ways can be found to curb early releases without overburdening an already
crowded prison system and without raising taxes to build more cells.
— “Stack” the sentence an inmate receives for crimes in prison onto the end of his original sentence.
— Make conversations between rape victims and their counselors privileged and not subject to testimony at trial.Committee OKs bill money, time punishment
A “rich man’s parole bill” that would allow the state to consider whether a prisoner up for parole has paid his debt to society in money, as well as time, has been approved by a Senate committee.
The original trill by Sen. Ted Lyon, D-Mesquite, would have required the Board of Pardons and Paroles to include as a “condition of parole” that the prisoner pay any outstanding fine or legal fee.
Janet Coplin, representing Dallas district judges, was the only witness testifying in favor of the bill. She said the measure would provide “restitution to the taxpayers.”
Asked how an indigent prisoner, who had served 15 years in prison without being paid a wage, could possibly pay for fees and legal costs, Ms. Coplin replied, “Payment plans can be arranged.”
Sen. Tati Santiesteban, D-El Paso, said, “This is a rich man’s parole bill. The rich boy’s going to get out, the poor boy’s going to stay in.”
Man pinned in haste for chicken dinner
ABILENE (AP) — An Abilene man says the thought of an appetizing fried chicken dinner caused him to spend ll hours pinned under his pickup truck in cold weather.
Randall leonard, 30, was pinned under the truck for about ll hours before he was freed early Tuesday. He had been attempting to change a tire on the truck when the truck slipped off the jack and pinned him,
The oilfield worker said he had been in a hurry to change the tire and that probably caused him to bt* pinned.
The man said he was at work when his wife called Monday night to say that she was having a fried chicken dinner.
“She (his wife) told me over the phone we were having fried chicken
anc! mashed potatoes and gravy,” leonard recalled. He said laughingly that the meal sounded so good he was in a hurry to get home.
leonard told the Abilene Reporter-News he was never under the full weight of the truck and was not in great pain, but began to lose circulation in the leg.
“I did situps, everything I knew how, to keep the circulation going. I
had most of the pain when they got it off, because the circulation came back,” leonard said.
leonard said the vehicle was on the frontage road of U.S. 277 and he tried to attract the attention of passing motorists by waving at them from under the truck, but most passed on by, apparently thinking that the man was merely waving to them.
Sanctuary trial moved to Houston
BROWNSVILLE (AP) - The trial of two sanctuary movement workers charged with transporting illegal aliens has been moved to Houston because of pretrial publicity.
U.S. District Judge Filemon Vela, who denied defense motions to dismiss charges against Jack Elder and Stacey Lynn Merkt, ruled Tuesday that news coverage surrounding the case was too great to select an impartial jury here, said defense counsel Lisa Brodyaga
Jury selection was scheduled for Feb. 18. Vela, who twice denied motions to remove himself from the case, will preside.
Elder and Ms. Merkt are accused of conspiring to smuggle and smuggling and transporting two Salvadorans from the Rio Grande to a bus station in McAllen last November.
Elder is the director of Casa Oscar Romero, a shelter for Central Americans in San Benito Ms. Merkt is a volunteer at the Catholic Church-sponsored shelter.
On Tuesday, about IOO prospective jurors were summoned for the case.
The judge asked members of the panel to raise their hands if they had any knowledge of the case and if they had any reaction
About half of them raised their hands. Irater, they were asked to step out of the courtroom as at torneys began to question the other jurors individually
Ms. Brodyaga said that in questioning about five jurors individually it was apparent most had an opinion about the case and
thus Vela granted the motion.
The trial is the second on similar charges against the pair.
Elder was acquitted last month in Corpus Christi on charges of transporting three Salvadorans from the Casa Oscar Romero shelter to a bus station in Harlingen last March.
Ms. Merkt, a volunteer at the Roman Catholic Church-sponsored shelter, is on two years’ probation on a similar conviction last May in Vela’s court.
Vela’s gag order, forbidding parties involved to discuss the case in public, still is in effect so attorneys could not talk about their reactions.
But Elder’s wife, Diane, said the defense team was happy with the venue change.
“Jack and Stacey stand a real good shot at an impartial jury,” she said.
Defense attorney Steve Cooper argued Monday, the second day of pretrial hearings, that most people in the Valley knew about the sanctuary movement and the previous trials and that they had made up their minds one way or another
Cooper called to the stand four. witnesses on that motion, including the president of an anti-sanctuary movement group
Mike Rodriguez said his group. Concerned Citizens for Church and Country, was not against the pair personally, but said they ought to be punished, if indeed they broke the law About 15 members of the group picketed outside the courthouse on Monday, carrying American flags and placards, some of which read “Deport Aliens,” “Support Border Patrol ”
Monclova mayor chosen i n drawing
MONTERREY, Mexico (AP) - In a first major step to restore order to Monclova in neighboring Coahuila state, two political parties at odds over the city’s mayoral election have formed a city council made up of members of both parties.
In a drawing held late Monday, Arturo Amaral Hernandez, a member of the opposition National Action Party, was .selected as Monclova deputy mayor and head of the 10-member council.
Representatives of National Action and the dominant Institutional Revolutionary Party, who have been meeting in the state capital of Saltillo to settle the lingering election dispute, had not decided who would
replace Salvador Martinez as the city’s official mayor.
The parties have agreed to the selection of a “neutral” Monclova mayor from a list of candidates nominated by both parties.
National Action, known by its Spanish acronym as PAN, claims th** Revolutionary Party, or PRI, used vote fraud to steal the Dec. 2 mayoral election in Monclova, a major steel producing city about 150 miles south
of the Texas border at Eagle Pass
Martinez, the Pills mayoral candidate, was declared the official winner by the PRI-dominated government in the border state, but was forced to establish his office in a private house after more than IOO PAN members occupied city hall and refused to relinquish the mayor’s office
The PAN hail called for the formation of city councils to be headed
by party members in Monclova and in the border city of Piedras Negras, where a similar election dispute
continues Government officials in Saltillo, 53 miles southwest of Monterrey, said Martinez, would have to petition the
state for permission to leave his office Once granted, the Coahuila stat* legislature would elect a replacement from among the candidates named.
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