Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

County courtroom gears up for Selena case


Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

News that Selena's accused killer will be tried here was met with typical Texas-style bravado by those who will have to plan for it and wide-eyed trepidation by those who will have to carry it out.

"Chaos" was the adjective of choice among courthouse staff and visitors who heard Wednesday that Harris County will host the most reviled defendant in recent Texas' history.

Jury selection in the murder case against Yolanda Saldivar is slated to begin Oct. 9 in state District Judge Ted Poe's 182-seat courtroom.

Selena was shot to death in a Corpus Christi motel on March 31. Saldivar, 34, is the founder of Selena's fan club.

Predictions about fan attendance and the resulting fallout were countered by officials who assure that although Saldivar will require special handling, Harris County is the place to handle her case.

"I don't know of anybody that is excited," said state District Judge Doug Shaver, whose courtroom is down the hall on the same floor as Poe's. "I don't know anyone that is really concerned. As I see it, it is just another lawsuit."

He conceded that "an entertainer's fans may be more emotional," but ... "we will be prepared. We will see to it that it is business as usual."

Harris County was a logical choice, said Poe, who said he offered his courtroom after hearing that state District Judge Mike Westergren was seeking to move the case here.

"We have a diverse population," he said. "I think they will have no problem finding a panel that will be fair and impartial."

His court is best suited for the trial because it has a cell with a back entrance for prisoner security, and thorough court and building security that includes metal detectors at the doors.

His docket is current and no other major trials were slated for the month Westergren was interested in getting started.

Poe said his staff will work with Westergren and the expenses incurred will be reimbursed by Nueces County.

Harris County Sheriff Department Capt. Marvin Hopkins said the coming weeks will be spent figuring the logistics. "There will be some things that we will just have to deal with as they come up," he said.

Law enforcement from all jurisdictions within and around the courthouse will work together to keep things in control, he said.

"We have to do our job to the best of our ability," Hopkins said. "We haven't even had a chance to talk about it."

Like Shaver, Poe is convinced the case can be handled within the limits yet to be set by Westergren.

"The judge will have the authority to control anything that diminishes the orderly administration of justice," he said. "That would include people who have their own agendas for being down here."

"I think it's going to be a real easy transition. It's going to be fun. It's definitely going to be real interesting," he said.