We saw that Priscilla Slade was thanking God for answering her prayers and hanging up the jury in the former TSU president’s trial for “misapplying” more than $500,000 in public funds.
If that’s so, and God was actually moved to deadlock the jury on Slade's behalf, then we again must conclude that God is one colossal ass.
When we were first informed of the judge’s declaration of a mistrial, but before we had sampled any media reports on his decision, we idlely wondered whether the jury had been hung along racial lines---whether black jurors had had pulled a nullification gambit, a la O.J. Then we saw a group of five or six jurors at a post-trial sidewalk news conference on Channel 13, all white except for one, and thought, “Shame on us for being such a cynical honky SOB!”
But we obviously weren’t alone in the thought, and the Chronicle undertook to address and apparently put to rest that very question---belatedly, but better late than never---in its Sunday follow-up, wherein the newspaper reported that just three of the 12 jurors were black and that the foreman and another white juror “emphatically said that neither race nor gender” were factors in the 6-6 deadlock.
Ok, we believe ’em, but we gotta have an answer. The seemingly popular notion that running up a $100,000 tab at Scott Gertner’s SkyBar and Grille is just the normal run of taxpayer-funded entertainment expenses for university presidents is flat bullshit.
So our suspicious mind next settled on the jury foreman, a white guy who’s a tax attorney. He’s been pretty accessible to the media since the mistrial was declared, and while we haven’t seen that he’s specifically revealed how he was leaning, he did speak disparagingly of the prosecution’s efforts---“They just didn’t get to the heart of the case”---and said that TSU needs someone like Slade “so they can get the right things done.”
Our question is: How did a tax attorney get on the jury? Or more to the point: How did the prosecution let a tax attorney get on the jury? Think about what a tax attorney does. We must agree with a former assistant county D.A. named Ricky Raven, quoted in a sidebar story in Saturday’s Chronicle saying “the battle in the courtroom is won and lost in jury selection.” Raven allowed that Slade attorney Mike DeGeurin “masterfully picks jurors … which may have won an advantage in Slade’s case.” Yes, quite often it’s all over when the jury is seated---the ability to read would-be jurors’ predispositions, proclivities and (most importantly) prejudices is the reason that Joe Jamail is today one of the state’s richest humans---and we’ve always thought the younger DeGeurin stood far out from the throng of blustering, sawed-off defense attorneys tottering around town in their cowboy boots with the 3-inch heels. He’s the guy we’ll call if we ever get caught spending $100,000 of taxpayers’ money on home furnishings.
This was a point made by two old black guys---both consummate barbershop bullshitters---whom we overheard discussing the case as we were dressing after a “workout” Saturday at our Y. One guy noted that “she didn’t do anything they all do,” meaning other university presidents, and he proceeded to click off the name of every local institute of higher learning----“Rice, U.H., Houston Baptist …”, except possibly for DeVry Business College, where he believed expenditures of the epic Slade scale were routinely incurred by university presidents in the pursuit of … well, being university presidents. The lockerroom dialogue between these two unclothed gentlemen rambled around on this point for a while until the pair came to a mutual agreement that Slade, whatever the merits of the state’s case, managed to slip free because she could afford to hire an exceptionally talented lawyer. "It's too bad if you're poor," said one before the conversation veered into a near reverential appreciation of Marvin Zindler.
Yep, it’s like our granddaddy always said: It’s nice to have God on your side, but it’s better to have a good lawyer.