Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Selena jurors have diverse histories

Some had never heard of singer

By PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

8:27 PM 10/12/1995

The jury that will decide the fate of murder defendant Yolanda Saldivar includes six men and six women from a variety of backgrounds, some of whom had never heard of slain Tejano singer Selena and one who had seen her in concert shortly before her death. The 12 jurors have heard two days of testimony in the murder trial, and will eventually decide the guilt or innocence of the former fan club president accused in the shooting death of Selena Quintanilla Perez. Saldivar, who signed a confession after ending a 91/2-hour standoff with police the night of the March 31 shooting, now says she accidentally shot Selena while trying to kill herself.

Saldivar has asked that the jury, rather than the judge, decide her punishment if she is convicted. That could range from probation to life in prison. The jury, selected earlier this week from a pool of nearly 200, includes seven Anglos, four Hispanics and one African-American. The average age of the jurors is 38. About half of them are gun owners or are familiar with firearms, and several said during jury selection they are supportive of police, some volunteering that they have bumper stickers or decals on their cars to that effect. A court order bars the Houston Chronicle and other media from publishing their names. But their conversations with lawyers during jury selection offer some details of their lives.

The jury includes:

* A 39-year-old former Marine who reads the Bible frequently. He owns guns and believes they can be discharged by accident. The Anglo man brought a large cooler into the jury room on the first day of trial, prompting defense attorney Doug Tinker to joke, "I guess he brought the beer."

* A sales assistant who works for a beverage distributor. The 38-year-old Anglo woman told lawyers she became a crime victim herself when her home was broken into.

* A Cuban-American who moved to the United States as a small child. The 30-year-old accountant said at first she believed Saldivar was guilty, but told lawyers she could put her feelings aside and give the defendant a fair trial.

* A 30-year-old Hispanic who works as an electrician and owns a rifle and a handgun. He told the attorneys he had no opinion about the case.

* An Anglo man, 29, who works as an inspector and has some experience with weapons. The defense tried to keep him off the jury panel because he said during the selection process that it would be difficult to look at Saldivar and say she's not guilty.

* A 34-year-old Hispanic salesman who said he has always wanted to serve on a jury. He said he would take his jury duty "just as serious as I take my business and my family."

* A retired General Motors employee who owns two or three handguns, which he rarely uses. One of his guns is a revolver similar to the one used to kill Selena. The 58-year-old Anglo said he was "disturbed" by other potential jurors who said Saldivar was guilty.

* A 47-year-old Anglo massage therapist and nail technician who has relatives in law enforcement and has a decal supporting the Houston Police Department on her windshield. She is currently reading Sybil because she likes books about "real people." "I watch people. I read people,"she said. "I watch the body language."

* A 27-year-old Anglo kindergarten teacher who says she makes judgment calls every day with children in school. She saw Selena perform at the Houston Livestock and Rodeo, but said she would be "the best juror (Saldivar) could have" because she is open-minded.

* A hospital maid who told lawyers she didn't want to serve on the jury. The 56-year-old woman, whose car has a bumper sticker supporting state troopers, is the only African-American on the panel.

* A 41-year-old sales assistant and secretary who owns a handgun and travels with it for protection. The Hispanic woman said she has no opinion about the case and would consider probation if the situation warrants it.

* A 31-year-old Anglo store manager who said he believes shootings can happen by accident.