Jerry Jurek to death. “Everything that could have transpired detrimental to Jurek’s case had transpired by the time anybody was appointed to defend him,” said Toby Summers recently. With a good deal of help from the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, he’s still fighting to save Jerry Jurek’s life, though he hasn’t been paid anything since filing his first appeal in 1974. A lot of things about the case bother Summers, but the two confessions concern him most. \(He and Middaugh tried to have the confessions thrown out, but “It was plainly not a rubber-tube confession, but you can have involuntary confessions resulting from mental as well as physical stress,” he said. Summers doesn’t think Jurek could have handled the stress imposed on him for some 42 hours after his arrest. Armed with a description of the truck thought to be involved in Wendy Adams’ abduction, her father, Ronnie, and another police officer went to the Jurek residence about 1 a.m. Aug. 17 and took Jerry downtown. Summers says his client was clad only in a pair of jeans. More clothing was not brought to him until later that morning. Lie detector test Jurek was held for 9 or 10 hours of periodic questioning in Cuero. Around noon, he was driven to Austin for a polygraph test which, Summers says, indicated involvement in the disappearance of the girl, but not the degree of involvement. He was brought back to Cuero and informed of his rights. Around 1 a.m. on Aug. 19 he signed a typed confession after questioning by Cheatham and Post. Jurek was then taken to the Victoria jail for “safekeeping” since the dis traught Adams had access to the DeWitt County Jail. There were never any reports that Adams had threatened to harm Jurek, however. By the time Jurek was returned to Cuero that afternoon, a search party had already found Wendy’s body floating face down in the river. Around 7 p.m. Jurek signed a second confession. In the first document, Jurek admits he killed the Adams girl because she had made insulting remarks about his family. In his second confession, he says his motive was her refusal to have intercourse with him. “Why would somebody who’d already admitted to a murder come back 16 or 17 hours later and make the same statement but only change the motive?” Summers asks. “That bothers methat and the fact that the pathologist’s report had been received by the time of the second statement. And it was very precise about where he [Jurek] placed his hands. The statement kind of parallels the “Freedom involves risk” By Susan Kent Caudill Dallas U.S. District Judge Mack Taylor of Dallas has ruled that journalists have the right to report and film Texas’ first execution since 1964. Atty. Gen. John Hill says the state will appeal the Jan. 6 ruling, but only the part of Taylor’s order allowing the televised coverage of executions. If people want to see “this grisly event” on television, Hill says, the authorization should come from the Legislature. Reporters are divided by the ruling and confused about its implications. Some reporters saw a grandstand play in KERA-TV journalist Anthony Garrett’s suit to gain camera access to the death chamber. But the issues were and are important: Should broadcast reporters have the same rights as their newspaper colleagues, and who should decide how capital punishment is to be coveredthe media or the government? In late November, Texas Department of Correction officials denied Garrett’s request to film executions. On Dec. 6, W. J. Estelle, TDC director, reversed a half-century-old policy permitting interviews with condemned prisoners and giving print reporters spectator rights in the death chamber. Garrett, with the support of the Dallas ACLU, filed suit against Estelle. KERA did not officially endorse Garrett’s ac 6 The Texas Observer tion, although program manager Bill Porterfield testified on Garrett’s behalf. In court, the state argued that Texas law specifies who can talk with death row inmates and who can witness executions. The press is not mentioned, so journalists should be excluded, it was reasoned. ACLU attorneys Fred Time and Peter Lesser \(a former KERA reporprior censorship. On the stand, Porterfield said “an execution is an act of state, an act of our collective will. It must come under public scrutiny.” Witnesses for Garrett argued that the next execution in Texas, whenever it comes, will be a landmark news story and that news editors rather than state officials should make coverage decisions. And what if some TV station is not as discreet as KERA in airing execution footage, Porterfield was asked. “Freedom involves risk,” he replied. Judge Taylor nodded and subsequently ruled for Garrett, knocking out one state statute as unconstitutional. \(Under his order, an AP and a UPI reporter and Garrett would make their stories and film available to all Texas news organiza”I’m not passing on the death penalty, but on the right of news media to be present,” Judge Taylor said, speaking from the bench. “That this act of state could be conducted in secret is . . . unthinkable. And I don’t think I can distinguish between the print and television media. I can’t say whether I’d want to view such a report, but the right of the media to do its duty is what’s at stake here.” Only Estelle \(whose duty it will be to assistant, Ron Taylor, testified for the state. Taylor described an execution, re peatedly raising the question of taste and stressing how unpleasant the procedure is. \(After the last meal, the prisoner’s left leg is shaved and his trouser leg Slit. Guards carry him into the death chamber, usually kicking and struggling, and strap him into the chair, placing a mask over his head and attaching a plate to his left leg. Cotton is stuffed up the nostrils and in the mouth to block blood or the contents of the stomach from erupting when the switch is thrown. SeEstelle warned about a “circus atmosphere,” taking pains to distinguish between print stories, which didn’t bother him, and television, which did. And he argued that the family of the condemned and prison officials shouldn’t be “punished” by television coverage. “I’ve never quarreled with the public’s right to know, but the industry’s right to play with it is something else,” he said. “A balance must be struck between concern for First Amendment rights and a very real concern for the individuals involved in the mechanics of this procedure.” During the hearing and after the ruling, Garrett and Porterfield came in for a fair amount of abuse. Garrett has been insulted and his motives denounced. He has been accused of being both for and against the death penalty, not only by the Dallas public but by a good many of his fellow reporters, including two BBC interviewers. Porterfield, it is charged by colleagues from Texas to Canada, backed Garrett for the sake of ratings. KERA itself has been flooded with angry phone calls, including some canceling financial support. Susan Kent Caudill is a reporter for KERA-TV in Dallas.
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