Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Laura Hall Sentencing Pronounced and (Part 2) More from Today

Gotta start chronologically from early this morning now. Right on time, court is in session. Defense attorney Joe James Sawyer puts on the record (outside the presence of the jury) his request (there's probably a more proper legal word for it) that both guilt-phase verdicts be set aside. Judge Flowers, "denied." I think this is something all defense attorneys do to preserve their record for appeal.

The State calls witness Doug Conley, who testifies that he is an Austin taxi driver who, around 9 a.m. on a Sunday in August 2006 received a dispatch to pick up an "Ashley" from the west campus area, around 28th and Rio Grande, and take her to the Barton Springs location of the restaurant/bar, Baby Acapulco's. He picked her up & began chatting w/her, asking her if she was a UT student. "Ashley" was Laura Ashley Hall, & she told him that she'd graduated from UT & was trying to get into law school but was having allot of trouble doing so because she had some pending felony charges.

Conley asked her what kind of felony charges? Hall said, "harboring a fugitive," to which Conley replied, "harboring a boyfriend? For what?" Hall said, "murder, but he's innocent." Conley asked who her boyfriend allegedly murdered. Hall replied, "I don't know, some bitch."

Conley was asked what his impression of Hall's demeanor was. He said, "cold, calculating," as if all the problems were (Jennifer Cave's) fault.

At this point, a CELL phone went off (HUGE no-no in court!) right beside me. I was horrified, knowing mine was turned off & realized it was Conley's & he'd left his bag right beside me. I grabbed his bag & ran out of the courtroom, leaving it with one of the local network's cameramen, not wanting to mess w/a strange cellphone. SO, I missed the end of Conley's direct testimony. Sawyer got up for cross exam and asked him if there was any tape recording of this conversation in his cab. Conley said no.

Later in the day I talked to Conley to get what I'd missed, plus he gave me more details that he said he'd forgotten about when he was on the stand. He had emailed the policeman listed as Conley's local Rosedale neighborhood association email list w/the information from his taxi conversation w/Hall. I asked him how he put together that Ashley was Laura Hall. Conley then remembered more of their conversation: he'd asked her something like, "how'd you harbor him?" and Hall said they went to Mexico & the reason she even needed a cab was because the police had confiscated her car.

Conley also offered to me (after his testimony on the stand) that Hall, overall, seemed annoyed she was being inconvenienced.

The State did not call any other witnesses.

The defense first calls Loren Hall. When asked who he is, Hall answers, "I'm her father," fighting back tears. He says that Laura grew up in a very small Texas town, Madisonville, until she was about 6 or 7 years old, when they moved to Crosby, Texas. He testified that she began participating in competitive swimming at age 7, a sport in which she participated into her college years at UT on the UT swim team until her asthma prevented her from continuing.

He further said that his daughter had played trombone through high school and as a high school freshman, joined the debate team, becoming their president and leading them to the national finals. She also attended summer debate camps because she always wanted to be a lawyer. Mr. Hall started to break down at this point & Sawyer reminded him to take his time.

Mr. Hall further testified that his daughter was on the UT rowing team and that she'd finished her degree. "I'm very proud of her for doing that," he said, especially considering she'd never passed college math & so got a math tutor and was able to raise her grade from a 24 to an 84 within 2 months.

Sawyer asked Mr. Hall if Laura's vocabulary/demeanor changed after she met CP. He said that yes, her vocabulary changed, that she started using lots of derogatory terms towards women, including, "bitch", "crack whore", and "stripper." Mr. Hall said that his daughter had been trying to build herself back up, just like she'd been able to do w/her math scores. He asked the jury to give her a chance, that she would prove herself worthy, and that anyone that could turn herself from a "battered, abused, bitter person" to someone working for lawyers & earning respect in that community deserves another chance (I'm paraphrasing the end of that part.)

More in a bit...

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