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A Phil Gramm Louis Dubose POLITICAL INTELLIGENCE MISS AL D’AMATO? With the defeat of New York Senator Alfonse D’ Amato, Texas Republican Senator Phil Gramm becomes chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. And The Dallas Morning News, whose editorial page \(among mainthe right only by the Wall Street Journal, is already pushing Gramm to the left. Taking note of Gramm’s ascent to the chairmanship, Morning News editorial writers urged the Senator to abandon his free-market ideology on banking and consider supporting the Community Reinvestment Act or at the very least, stop holding up banking reform because of his opposition to it. Gramm blocked banking reform legislation this past summer because of a provision in the legislation that expanded some of the powers of the Community Investment Act itself enacted in 1997, according to the Morning News, to address “the industry’s dismal lending record in low-income and minority neighborhoods, a record that didn’t significantly improve until federal regulators pressed the issue in the early 1990s.” And, they added, “The lending law is finally beginning to show fruit. The law has introduced banks to business opportunities they otherwise would have missed. It’s been a catalyst for some banks and community groups to forge partnerships to better serve low-income and minority communities.” TEXAS-SIZED NIGHTMARE. New York Times columnist Bob Herbert has taken on the peculiar prosecution and conviction of Lacresha Murray convicted of criminally negligent homicide in Travis County in 1996, when she wassleven years old, and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. “A close look at the case,” Herbert wrote, “shows that she was the victim of a colossal miscarriage of justice.” Murray is caught up, Herbert wrote, “in a Texas-sized nightmare.” How, he asked, could an elevenyear-old child be convicted of killing a smaller child in her care when there was “no forensic evidence not so much as a speck of blood?” Why did prosecutors ignore evidence that the two-and-a-half-yearold Jayla Belton who was left in Murray’s care after Belton’s parents were told not to leave her because no adult would be at home was perspiring, refused to eat, and was vomiting when she was dropped off at the house where Lacresha Murray helped her grandparents take care of several children? Herbert attributes Murray’s conviction to a confession that he quotes at length in the first of three columns he has thus far written on the case. Police, he said, told Murray, “We’re going to stay here until you tell us the truth.” The child had no attorney nor any other adult present during her interrogation, which resulted in the conviction that sent her to jail for twenty-five years. When Murray said she had not harmed the child, Herbert wrote, “police finally resorted to asking if it were at least `possible’ that Lacresha had dropped the baby or even kicked her.” During the questioning, which occurred after Murray had been kept from her family for four days, she finally admitted that the suggestions made by the interrogators were possible or even probable. In his second column, Herbert interviewed Travis County Medical Examiner Robert Bayardo, whom he takes to task for poor forensic work. Bayardo admitted that he did not weigh the body of Jayla Belton because “at that time we were in an old building and didn’t have a scale.” Herbert also questioned Bayardo’s failure to carefully examine old bruises that might have indicated repeated abuse of the child, perhaps at home. Herbert described a second opinion, from Dr. Linda Norton, a former Dallas County Medical Examiner now working as a consultant. Norton concluded that Jayla Belton had been injured by someone else, before she was dropped off at the Murray house, and was in all probability a chronically battered and malnourished child. Bayardo’s failure to examine old injuries and to weigh the child were critical failures, according to Norton. “I have been doing forensic pathology since 1974,” Morton said. “I have never had a case affect me like this one. Lacresha Murray is an innocent child.” Murray is imprisoned in the Giddings State Home and School. Herbert’s have revived a group of Austin lawyers and activists working on Murray’s case. Her supporters held a demonstration at the Capitol November 21, and hope to focus attention on Murray’s hearing before the Third Court of Appeals in Austin, which is reviewing her case. 16 THE TEXAS OBSERVER DECEMBER 4, 1998