For the column that ran on the day after the demonstration, Herbert interviewed Travis County District Attorney Ronnie Earle and his assistant, Gary Cobb, the lead prosecutor on the Murray case. Herbert challenged the theory they presented to the jury: that what Murray’s grandfather described as the sound of a ball bouncing was actually Murray stomping or beating the child to death in the adjacent room. Herbert also reported that the “foolproof evidence” that Earle and Cobb described to him, and to the jury Murray’s footprint on the deceased child’s body is considerably less than foolproof. The lab that analyzed the evidence wrote, “We were unable to testify that the marks on Belton’s body were made by these shoes due to insufficient general characteristics.” “The jury,” Herbert reported, “was never told of that letter.” Details of the case can be found at www.peopleoftheheart.org . SMITH REPORT. San Antonio Congressman Lamar Smith is responsible for some of the worst provisions in a 1996 immigration reform bill that has immigration lawyers struggling to save clients from deportation for minor crimes \(now reclassiSee “Sitting in Limbo in Bastrop” by Nate been relentless in his investigation of the 1997 killing of Esequiel Hernandez. Hernandez was shot while tending his goats by a Marine he never saw, who was working on a drug interdiction mission in the tiny border town of Redford, near Big Bend State Park \(“Intruders in the Dust” by port is 249 pages long, and he prefaced it with a statement that places the blame on the federal military and police operatives working on the border: “The Marines’ unreadiness was compounded by a lack of training and support from the Border Patrol. For example, the Marines were not told that innocent civilians in this part of the country often carry weapons and are wary of intruders…. The Marines were not told that their observation post was located near a number of family homes, including the Hernandez home. They were not told that Hernandez regularly brought his goats to the Polvo crossing area.” CURRENTLY FOR SALE. Alternative Media Inc. isn’t your typical alternative weekly paper chain. One media critic described its flagship Detroit Metro Times as a rare alternative weekly that “has stuck to its original left-wing politics while maintaining financial success throughout almost two decades of publishing,” adding that it’s “the only paper in the industry to consistently have people of color in top level editorial positions.” So when company C.E.O., Ron Williams, arrived in Texas in January of last year to close the deal on the long -moribund San Antonio Current, he created a buzz in journalistic circles far beyond San Antonio. It wasn’t only that the buyout raised expectations that some real money would be put into the Current. Williams had a reputation as a newspaper owner with a genuine progressive political agenda and a commitment to real news content. He beefed up the editorial staff budget, redesigned the paper, and set out to do critical, hard news stories that the old Current and the daily San Antonio Express -News would never consider. But last month, Williams flew into town and told his staff that the Current \(along with the Metro Times and the Orlando were all up for sale. Williams would not discuss terms or potential buyers, because he was bound by “due diligence.” But he said he was considering offers from several buyers and would make an announcement concerning the fate of the paper in mid to late November. In the running were four potential buyers, with most observers betting on New Times, one of the larger national chains buying up alternative weeklies, and currently the owner of the Dallas Observer and the Houston Press. But on November 23, the announced buyer was Philadelphia-based AMICC, which owns the Philadelphia City Paper and thirty-two suburban papers in the Philadelphia area. AMICC’ s president, Arthur Howe, a former reporter who won Pulitzer Prize at the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1986, promised no changes in staff or operation at the Current, or the other two papers acquired from Alternative Media UNETHICAL UNEXEMPTING? No, it has nothing to do with his sleazy campaign tactics: Comptroller John Sharp has been sued by the Ethical Culture Fellowship of Austin, which hopes to regain its short-lived tax-exempt status. Back in 1996 the Comptroller’s office designated E.C.F.A. as a tax-exempt religious organization, then took it back two days later, after an article appeared in the Austin American -Statesman under the headline “Godless Group Gets Religious Exemption.” In un-exempting E.C.F.A., Sharp explained that only groups professing to worship a “Supreme Being” were entitled to the exemption. Oh come on, said the thirty-member Ethical Culture group and the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas, who filed the suit along with Austin attorney David Weiser. Sharp’s definition of religious organizations would exclude “Buddhists, Unitarian Universalists, any number of groups,” said the A.C.L.U.’ s Jay Jacobson. “I figured a simple letter to the Comptroller’s office would suffice [to get the exemption restored]. I was really surprised.” Texas is the only state that denies tax-exemption to an Ethical Culture congregation. The humanist group conducts regular worship services, as well as marriage and naming ceremonies. PAY AT THE PUMP. By the time the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Bart Sipriano, Harold Fain and Doris Fain v. Ozarka Spring Water, the court clerk’s files for the case were packed full of amicus briefs from groups all over the state. At issue is the “rule of capture” a holdover from English Common Law, which bestows ownership of groundwater on whoever first pumps it out of the ground. The rule was upheld by the Texas Supreme Court in 1904. In the ninety-four years since, the the Court has occasionally created specific exceptions, but it has repeatedly refused to overturn the rule. No exception applies in this case, and the 1997 Texas Water Plan provides no guidance. Sipriano and the Fains sued Ozarka, claiming the company’s pumping operation in Henderson County drained Sipriano’s well and significantly lowered the water level in the Fains’ well. Sipriano’s well had provided water for more than 100 years, until Ozarka began pumping 90,000 gallons See “Political Intelligence, page 23 DECEMBER 4, 1998 THE TEXAS OBSERVER 17 , , .., , ., y
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