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April 11, 1975, 17 The Cuevas trial Austin Far be it from the Observer to drag its readers into some grody, ol’, Sunday scandal-sheet murder trial, but there is something odd going on in Houston: specifically, the murder trial of Ignacio Cuevas, the lone convict survivor of last summer’s escape attempt from Huntsville state . prison. During 11 days of negotiations last summer three convicts, led by Fred Carrasco, a murderer and heroin dealer, held 10 hostages. The escape attempt ended on Aug. 4, when Carrasco, Rudolfo Dominguez, and two women hostages were shot to death as they left the prison library in a home-made shield of books and blackboards. At this writing, the prosecution had rested its case, the defense had yet to begin, and the one thing that was perfectly clear was that Ignacio Cuevas hadn’t murdered anybody. Ballistics experts agreed that Julia Standley, one of the women hostages, had apparently been murdered by Dominguez, who shot her four times in the back at point-blank range. Dominguez himself died as a result of being shot twice in the forehead at point-blank range by Winston Padgett, an undercover officer from Beaumont. \(The Walker County justice of the peace who did the original autopsies on the bodies said that Dominguez had committed suicide by shooting himself twice through the .Dominguez was uninjured at the time and going for his gun. But Dominguez had already been shot through the throat with a bullet that hit an artery. Elizabeth Beseda, the other hostage killed, died from a single bullet through the chest, but since no autopsy was performed on her, it is unclear who fired the bullet. There was testimony that there were powder burns on her blouse, indicating that she was shot at close range. She was handcuffed to Carrasco during the final break-out attempt. Carrasco himself was either hit by a rifle fired from a fair distance or killed himself. Novella Pollard, who was handcuffed to Cuevas, escaped unharmed. No one seems clear on who shot Father Joseph O’Brien, the prison chaplain, who was also in the jury-rigged shield. O’Brien originally told the press that Cuevas had shot him, but recanted that statement on the stand: it now appears that he might have been injured by a law enforcement officer. But Cuevas, charged with capital murder in the death of Standley, is not much forrarder for all this evidence. According to Jerry Sandel, Walker County D.A., who is prosecuting the case, under the criminal responsibility section of the Texas criminal code, Cuevas can be held guilty of murder because he participated in the act that led to Standley’s death. No one was exactly maintaining that Cuevas was as innocent as a lamb Novella Pollard, whose life he apparently spared, or at least failed to take, had become so leery of him during her days of captivity that she refused to even walk near to him in the courtroom. But there are a sight of questions about official handling of the incident. When inmates who witnessed the shoot-out reported immediately afterward that a law officer had walked up and executed both Carrasco and Dominguez by shooting them in the head at point-blank range, officials pooh-poohed the story and let stand the incredible verdict of the j.p. that Dominguez was a suicide had shot himself twice in the head. Gov. Dolph Briscoe ordered an investigation at the time an investigation to be headed by Capt. Pete Rogers of the Texas Rangers, who, with J. W. Estelle, commissioner of the Department of Corrections, had been in charge at Huntsville during the break-out attempt. There was some grousing at the time about having Rogers head the investigation of an incident during which he had been in charge, and even more grousing when it first appeared that the investigation was to be limited. to how Carrasco had gotten the guns with which he took the hostages. Rogers testified at Cuevas’ trial that he had been pulled off a full investigation on orders “from my superiors in Austin” and told to confine himself to events leading up to the attempted escape. On March 27, Bob Hardesty, Briscoe’s press secretary, said Rogers couldn’t have been pulled off a full investigation because one had never been ordered. No order to rescind, said Hardesty, because all the governor had asked for in the way of a DPS investigation was a study of the events leading up to the attempted break-out, of how the inmates obtained their guns. Hardesty said the guv had not asked for a full investigation of what happened after the hostages were taken. But according to newspaper accounts at the time, “Briscoe said he was confident that Rogers could and would give an unbiased report on the matter. He said that Rogers’ report should go beyond the ALAN POGUE Photographer of political events & pseudo events, of people in their natural surroundings , Rag office 478-0452/478-8387 Austin *********************** t University of 4, Texas Press : 4, *Box 7819 Austin, Texas 78712 WRITE FOR FREE CATALOGUE *********************** Subscription list The following announcement, taken from Ronnie Dugger’s report on the Observer in the Feb. 14 issue, is repeated for those who may have missed it. We have never let politicians use the Observer’s mailing list, nor have we sold that list. Now, with considerable reluctance, we have decided, in order to obtain new subscribers, to exchange our subscriber list with periodicals and organizations with which we feel a consanguinity of interests.or purposes. 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