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January 22nd, 2005:

A question as the Heflin challenge draws nearer

One of the advantages of occasionally dawdling before posting on something is that sometimes someone else will do the heavy lifting for you, which Greg has done on this story regarding the state of the Heflin challenge. Basically, he covered the important bits, and I agree with what he said.

One little thing:

Vo raised $114,000 during the period between Oct. 24 and Dec. 31, according to campaign finance reports filed with the Texas Ethics Commission this week.

Among the post-election donors were political action committees representing farmers, architects, doctors, hospitals, automobile dealers, the restaurant association and beer distributors.

Heflin raised $184,000 in that same period.

Contributing to Heflin after the election were Houston home builder Bob Perry, who wrote a $50,000 check, and Gov. Rick Perry, who chipped in $10,000 from his campaign fund.

According to the TEC report on Heflin, Texans for Rick Perry made that contribution on November 9. Was that to help retire debt, or perhaps to help pay for the inevitable recount, or did Perry already know by then that Heflin would be challenging the result? We know that Hubert Vo had been declared the winner in the official canvass by November 9. What was Rick Perry giving Talmadge Heflin that money for? Has anyone asked him? Does he agree with what Tina Benkhiser and Sherry Sylvester have been saying?

Some Republicans have suggested privately that Heflin should accept his loss to avoid disruption of a busy session and to prevent the appearance of a partisan grab.

The Texas Republican Party, however, is putting pressure on GOP lawmakers not to sweep the case under the rug.

An e-mail from state Republican Chairman Tina Benkiser to thousands of members encourages them to contact their representatives to ensure that the election contest goes to the House floor.

“There are people who would just like this to go away,” said party spokeswoman Sherry Sylvester. “People have been very discreet, but it’s clear representatives are receiving pressure to not take it seriously and not consider the evidence.”

Maybe someone ought to ask the Governor where he stands on this. I’d sure like to know. Wouldn’t you?

Postcards from the Responsibility Era

Letter to the Editor:

Do all the Bush-bashers really believe that if John Kerry had won that he would not have had an even grander inaugural ceremony? Please!

Sugar Land

Memo to Linda Snyder’s children: The next time your mom tries to punish you for misbehavior, remember that “Everyone else does it!” is now considered to be an affirmative defense. Somewhere, Harvey Richards is smiling.

Prosecution appeals Yates order

The Harris County DA office has appealed the order for a new trial for Andrea Yates.

In a motion filed Thursday, prosecutors say the 1st Texas Court of Appeals erred Jan. 6 when it ordered a new trial, citing an expert prosecution witness who gave erroneous testimony about a TV program.

In Yates’ March 2002 murder trial, forensic psychiatrist Park Dietz told jurors that she might have patterned the killings after an episode of Law & Order, in which a mother drowned her children and was found not guilty by reason of insanity. It later was found that no such episode existed.

Prosecutors say the remark about the TV show had no bearing on Dietz’s assertion that Yates was sane when she killed her five children in June 2001.

Dietz’s remark “does not impact in any degree upon the jurors’ determination as to whether (she) knew what she was doing was wrong at the time that she committed the offenses,” prosecutors said in court papers.


Citing 23 other cases, prosecutors contend the law cited by the appeals court about false testimony requiring a new trial applies only if the testimony had a direct bearing on the defendant’s guilt or innocence.

They said the testimony arguably could have helped Yates’ insanity claim. “If (Yates) had watched a Law & Order episode, (her) expert witnesses clearly would have viewed that as just another ingredient to (her) increasingly psychotic thoughts,” prosecutors said.

I feel that if the false testimony was enough for Sam Nuchia to order a reversal, it ought to be enough for anyone. That said, never underestimate what kind of “logic” the Court of Criminal Appeals will (eventually) bring to bear. Stay tuned.

Lisa Diaz and Park Dietz

In September of 2003, Plano housewife Lisa Diaz obeyed the voices in her head that ordered her to kill her children. She drowned her two daughters in a bathtub, then stabbed herself repeatedly in an ultimately unsuccessful suicide attempt. In August last year, she was found not guilty by reason of insanity. Read her story in the Houston Press, including how her attorneys learned from those who had defended Deanna Laney, but beware – some of the details are quite gruesome.

There’s also a good sidebar story about the recent developments in the Andrea Yates case. Meanwhile, Ginger points to this Newsweek article in which Park Dietz whines and stamps his feet about how it’s soooo unfair that his “honest mistake” has caused him soooo much grief. Poor baby.