Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Frenzied fans hail verdict with tears, cheers

By JO ANN ZUÑIGA and R.A. DYER Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

9:50 PM 10/23/1995

Tears, cheers and honking car horns mixed with the strains of Selena's music on boom boxes outside the Harris County Courthouse where a crowd of about 200 people celebrated Yolanda Saldivar's guilty verdict Monday. Chanting "Culpable," Spanish for guilty, the fans came from across Texas -- from Fort Worth, San Antonio and Corpus Christi, the city where the shooting took place.

The throng of spectators awaiting the verdict mixed with downtown rush hour traffic to create a frenzied, mostly celebratory reaction. Across Houston, in taquerias, cafes and stores, it was much the same. "The O.J. Simpson trial -- no one knew much about that," said taqueria waiter Carlos Montañez. "But everybody knows Selena. And everybody is happy with the decision. She was killed -- and it was no accident." One clerk at an eastside record shop said customers and employees gathered to hear the news. "We were all waiting by the radio, waiting to hear the verdict," said Marta Mendoza, a 26-year-old clerk at Discos y Novedades on 75th Street. "That she was guilty was expected. It wasn't an accident, it was vengeance."

Like many, she said it would have been disastrous for Houston -- and perhaps even for Saldivar -- if the jury had voted for acquittal. "I would have been scared -- it would have been horrible," Mendoza said."It was better for (Saldivar) that she was guilty, rather than innocent. The fans of Selena would have attacked (Saldivar) because Selena was so beloved by all the Hispanics here." Outside the courthouse, where some fans of the singer had gathered each day, Minnie Valdez held a sign that read: "Don't Acquit, the Gun Fit" -- stealing a line from O.J. Simpson's attorneys who attacked the prosecution's evidence of a pair of ill-fitting gloves. "If it was an accident, Saldivar would have rendered aid to her since she was a nurse. She should have tried to help Selena," Valdez said. In one of several examples of black humor for sale outside the courthouse, vendor Tony Cortinas drew laughter as he hawked red bull's-eye targets with a drawing of Saldivar in the center. "We're not promoting violence.

But this is a way that people can release their frustrations if they want to throw darts at it or whatever," Cortinas said of the fast-selling item. But some had a more somber view. Truman Bradshaw of Fort Worth, a courtroom spectator, said he, his wife and daughter were able to get seats in the trial for the past three days through the daily lottery that allowed limited seating for members of the public. "Both families were losers in this," Bradshaw said. "I felt sorry for all of them. But we came here to show support for Selena." Still others believed in Saldivar's attorneys' contention that the shooting was an accident. Ray and Raquel Madrigal of Corpus Christi drove to Houston just to see the courtroom finale Monday. Both managed to get seats to hear the closing arguments, but they came away with different conclusions. "To me, it was an accident.

When someone kills someone on purpose, the emotions are not there like they were in the audio tapes," said Ray Madrigal, referring to the emotional taped exchanges between Saldivar and police negotiators. But his wife, who believed Saldivar was guilty, replied quietly, "You can if you are as manipulative as she has been made out to be." But both husband and wife agreed on why they came to see the trial's end. "For Selena. We remember her openness with people," Ray said.

Among the younger spectators was Gina Hernandez, 10, who had begged her father to take her to the courthouse when the verdict came in. She waved posters of the singer and cheered as cars drove by and honked their horns in support. "But I'm still sad anyway," she said, "because I love her and I love her music and she shouldn't have died."