New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - March 15, 1985, New Braunfels, Texas
Mattox— Acquittal a victory for people of Texas
AUSTIN (AP) — Attorney General Jim Mattox, the self-described “people’s lawyer,” says his acquittal of a commercial bribery charge should put political foes and big oil companies on notice.
“I view this very much as a victory for the people of the state of Texas,” Mattox told some IOO cheering supporters who gathered outside the Travis County Courthouse as the verdict was returned Thursday night.
“I think in the long run it will help my political career,” he said. “I think the people want somebody who’s willing to fight for what’s right.”
Mattox had been accused in 1983 of threatening the lucrative bond business of the powerful Houston law firm Fulbright & Jaworski unless one of its lawyers stopped
trying to question Mattox’s sister in an oil rights case.
The eight-woman, four-man jury returned its verdict at 8:22 p.m. after about three hours of deliberations.
As the verdict was read, Mattox supporters who had packed the third-floor courtroom whooped, shouted and applauded. Within moments, the crowd outdoors began to cheer as well.
Immediately after state District Judge Mace B. Thurman Jr. released the jury, Mattox entered the jury room to personally thank each of them.
“Thank you all so much,” Mattox told the jurors as he shook their hands. “From the bottom of my heart, thank you.”
Mattox, who has professed his innocence
since first being indicted in September 1983, assured the jurors they made the right decision.
“I never made those statements they say I did,” he said. “Had I done so, I would have walked over here and taken my medicine.”
Mattox has portrayed the oil rights dispute that led to his indictment as a fight between himself, the state’s lawyer, and Mobil Oil Corp. He contended that Mobil for decades had been depriving the state of considerable oil revenue that goes into a public school fund.
Fulbright & Jaworski lawyer Thomas McDade represented Mobil, which was sued over the 1925 lease by the state and wealthy South Texas rancher Clinton Manges. The case was settled last year with the state
gaining control over nearly 15,000 acres of oil land.
“I think tonight we have convinced Mobil Oil they’ve got to come in the front door of the attorney general’s office just like everybody else does,” Mattox said.
"I’m thankful that now we can go on with the business of the people,” he added.
Jury foreman John Packer of Austin said that prosecutors in the five-week trial simply failed to prove a felony was committed.
“We went on what the charges were,” Packer said. “There was not one (specific) factor.”
If convicted, Mattox could have faced up to IO years in prison and a $5,000 fine.
District Attorney Ronnie Earle, who led the prosecution team and accused Mattox of
abusing the power of his office, voiced disappointment with the outcome.
“You’re always disappointed when you don’t win,” Earle said. ‘‘It was our decision to go with a felony charge. Texas law does not have an extortion charge that fit, so we went with the closest thing.”
But, Earle said, the innocent verdict still ‘‘does not mean there was not an abuse of power.”
Earle, in his closing argument, said Mattox had confused his private interest with the public’s business in dealing with Fulbright & Jaworski.
“The man has a problem with vindictiveness. He has a problem with being a bully,” Earle said. “What he did was misuse his power.”
Jurors relieved about trial outcome
AUSTIN (AP) — Two members of the jury that acquitted Attorney General Jim Mattox of a commercial bribery charge say the prosecution’s key witness simply failed to convince them a crime ever occurred.
After five weeks of coutroom proceedings, jury foreman John Packer of Austin said Thursday night that the evidence failed to support the felony charge.
While no single factor caused him to favor the innocent finding, Packer told The Associated Press he was skeptical of testimony from key witness Wiley Caldwell.
Mattox was accused of telling Caldwell, chief of the Fulbright & Jaworwski law firm’s bond department, that he would refuse to approve the firm’s bonds unless one of its lawyers stopped trying to question his sister in an oil rights case.
But Packer said Caldwell’s testimony on the witness stand wasn’t convincing.
“There was a little bit of discrepency over exactly what happened,” Packer said.
Tile jury received the case at 5:10 p.m. Thursday, following a full day of final arguments from prosecutors and defense lawyers. After ordering a chicken dinner, jurors notified the bailiff at 8:06 p.m. they had reached a decision.
“We went on what the charges
were,” Packer said.
“We did some discussing, but we did not try to change minds just for going with the majority,” added juror Sarah Howard.
Throughout the trial jurors were bombarded with information about the workings of the municipal bond business, details of the oil rights case and campaign contributions. They heard tape-recorded telephone conversations between Mattox, attorney Thomas McDade, Caldwell and others.
Mrs. Howard also said her decision hinged on Caldwell's testimony.
“I just felt there was an inconsistency there. That was the one thing that got me off the fence between guilty and not guilty. Nothing ever again proved any differently,” she said.
Three other jurors refused to comment about the deliberations, and several more did not return telephone calls to their homes Thursday night.
For juror Elsie Furr the trial’s end came as a relief.
“I’m very tired and ifs been an experience,” she said.
Neither Packer, Mrs. Howard or Mrs. Furr had served on a jury before, but all said they would do it again.
Packer said next time he would opt ‘‘for a more normal case.”
Supporters cheer Mattox verdict
AUSTIN (AP) — The cheering began before he left the courtroom, and supporters of vindicated Attorney General Jim Mattox partied into the night after he was found innocent of a commercial bribery' charge.
“As you can probably tell, the crowd’s with me tonight,” Mattox roared to more than IOO backers and staff members who had gathered Thursday outside the Travis County Courthouse.
"And I want to tell you this: I didn’t do what those people charged. I tried to tell ’em that,” he said.
As he spoke, the man who calls himself “the people’s lawyer” wore a dark red boxing glove on his left hand. But his toughest fight was the struggle to be heard over the celebration of his friends.
"I view this very much as a victory for the people of the state of Texas...” Mattox began.
“All right!” his backers yelled.
“As you probably know, I am a very religious individual...”
“Hallelujah! ” a woman shouted.
“When they say, ‘Yea, though you walk through the valley of death,’ they were talking about political death. I’ll tell ya. But I was convinced everything would come out all right.”
At 8.22 p.m.. Mattox was found
innocent of the felony charge.
Since September 1983, he had been accused of threatening the bond business of a powerful Houston law firm, but said all along he did nothing wrong.
While the verdict was being read in court, supporters who had filled all the seats and stood in the center aisle whooped with glee.
Even as state District Judge Mace B. Thurman Jr. was admonishing them to be silent, backers on the sidewalk outside the third-floor courtroom joined the cheering.
A large white truck left over from his 1982 campaign — with “Mattox” emblazoned on the side in tall red letters — was parked nearby. Numerous Mattox campaign posters were being waved.
“I am so happy about what has happened tonight,” Mattox told them. “I tell you it makes me a stronger individual...’’
A supporter wouldn't let him finish: “Governor Jim!”
The crowd cheered “...And I think it’ll make me stronger politically,” Mattox added The crowd cheered again.
Mattox thanked his lawyer, Roy Q. Minton, and invited the crowd to a party at Minton's office adjacent to the courthouse. “I hope all of you will come across the street. Roy Minton’s buying the beer with my money ”Judge allows failing agriculture students to go to stock show
GROESBECK (AP) - Thirty agriculture students who failed classes recently will be able to attend this weekend’s stock show.
The 30 students failed courses, which under new state law means they are banned from extracurricular activities for a six-week school term.
But retired State District Judge Clarence Ferguson granted a temporary injunction to the state law in
response to a class action suit filed by three school districts demanding that the students be allowed to participate.
Under the new get-tough statewide school policy, students who flunk a course during a six-week period are barred from participating in extracurricular activities during the subsequent six-week term. The “nopass, no play” policy went into effect this fifth six-week period of the
Ferguson ruled that the livestock show does not qualify as an “extracurricular activity,” which is defined in the Texas Codes Annotated as an event that is “sponsored or sanctioned by the school district."
The suit was expected to be an individual action by Bill Parker, whose 15-year-old son flunked health and biology courses during the, last six-week term. But the Parkers’
attorney, Bobby Reed of Groesbeck, encouraged the plaintiffs to expand it to include about 30 students in the Mexia, Groesbeck and Coolidge school districts. f
"The ironic point is that we believe that the basic idea of raising the level of education in Texas is good,” Parker said. "But there are some inequities involved, and we are questioning one."
Parker said the superintendents of
the three districts have told him they favored the injunction because it may help answer questions about the applications of House Bill 72.
Parker said he probably would not continue the litigation since the goal of getting his son adnutted to the livestock show Friday and Saturday has been accomplished.
"We’re not leading a crusade.” he said.
Mexia School District Superin
tendent Bob Funderburk said that even if a permanent injunction is not obtained, he believes the Texas Education Agency will hand down clarifications of the rules to avoid confusion in the future.
He and other officials said they want any rewriting of the rules to include a means for students to appeal a sanction, other than filing a lawsuit.
House authorizes bill against hunger
AUSTIN (AP) — A Texas Senate committee has approved an $18 million program aimed at putting food on the plates of hungry Texans.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Hugh Parmer, D-Fort Worth, was prompted by a study that found thousands of Texans who are not served by state programs because the programs are underfunded.
About 634,000 of the 817,000 women and infants who qualify for the Women, Infants and Children program do not get needed help, according to the study prepared by a Parmer-led subcommittee.
Texas got $83.5 million in federal money for the program last year, Parmer said.
The study also showed that 68 percent of elderly Texans would go hungry if meals were not provided for them through government programs. About 22,000 elderly shut-ins do not get meals because of insufficient funds, Parmer said.
“What we found was that a significant number of fellow Texans who, for days, go without eating,” Parmer told the Senate Health and Human Resources Committee, which unanimously sent the bill to the Senate floor.
The bill would authorize $12 million to supplement the Women, Infants and Children food program, $3.5 million for elderly home-bound programs and $2.5 million for emergency nutrition programs.
Former state Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson of Dallas, now executive officer of the Visiting Nurse Association, tearfully told of the Dallas Meals on Wheels program that feeds 1,700 old people per day but still has a waiting list of 300.
“It’s sad,” Ms. Johnson said. “We have such strict regulations and we still have people waiting.”
To qualify, a person must be over 70, have an annual income of under $5,900, live alone and not be able to shop for food, she said.
In the Rio Grande Valley, the devaluation of the peso and 1983 citrus freeze caused great hardships on families, said Oralia Garza deCortes, head of the Industrial Areas Foundation.
“Right now parents are having to choose between paying utility bills or
buying food,” Mrs. deCortes said.
She said 19,000 participate in the WIC program in the Rio Grande Valley but aid to 1,500 is scheduled to be cut in Hidalgo County alone.
Dr. Fernando Guerra, a member of the Physicians Task Force on Hunger, showed the committee photos or malnourished children.
Bill would protect officers
AUSTIN — A bill protecting the rights of a peace officer during departmental investigations has been tentatively approved by the Senate.
Sen. Oscar Mauzy, D-Dallas, said Thursday his bill would give an officer “the same rights a common thief out on the streets today is accorded.”
The bill would require complaints to be put in writing and include the names of the people making them. Also, only under a chiefs written order could an officer be forced to submit to a lie detector test.
An officer would be entitled to counsel and could have anyone he requests present at his interrogation.
The measure was tentatively approved on voice vote, but Mauzy did not have enough supporters to suspend the rules and gain final approval.
In other action Thursday, the House voted 117-13 to send tile Senate a bill establishing a state agency to look for more efficient ways to run state agencies.
The new commission would include 15 members appointed by the governor, lieutenant governor and House speaker._
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