Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Selena's killer gets life

By MICHAEL GRACZYK Copyright 1995 Associated Press

3:40 PM 10/26/1995

A jury Thursday sentenced Yolanda Saldivar, convicted of killing Tejano singing star Selena, to life in prison. The jury deliberated nine hours over two days. The punishment was among seven options it considered, ranging from the maximum life in prison and $10,000 fine to a minimum of probation. The prosecution had asked for the maximum. The defense sought probation. The life term means Saldivar will have to serve at least 30 years in prison before she is eligible for parole.

A loud cheer went up from outside the courthouse and horns immediately began blaring from cars driving around the courthouse. As lead attorney Douglas Tinker stood with his arm around her, Saldivar, wearing a white suit, stood and listened as state District Judge Mike Westergren read the jury's decision on punishment. After hearing it, she began to cry. Her family, seated directly behind her in court, also began sobbing. Westergren asked if she had anything to say. "No sir," she replied quietly as her other lawyers began hugging her.

There was no immediate reaction from members of Selena's family, who were seated at the other side of the courtroom. Early Thursday afternoon after more than eight hours of discussions, jurors asked Westergren about fines, specifically, where they come from and where they go. He responded in a note that he had given them all the information in his charge on Wednesday. The jury ultimately levied no fine. Jurors had seven punishment options, a wide range that allowed them to specify imprisonment for any term up to life, a fine of up to $10,000 and probation.

While life requires a mandatory 30-year imprisonment, other prison terms would require at least 50 percent of the time be spent locked up. Her case was not eligible for the death penalty under Texas law. The panel met for 5� hours Wednesday, was sequestered overnight and resumed deliberations about 9:30 a.m. CDT Thursday. A hung jury would have required a retrial of the entire case. Prosecutors suggested the length of deliberations reflected the broad punishment options the jury had to consider. Defense attorneys argued in closing arguments to the jury that Saldivar, who rose from Selena fan club president to manager of her boutiques, had paid a heavy enough penalty with her murder conviction and should be given probation.

Prosecutors said her actions March 31, when the Grammy-winning singer was shot, cut short someone with a long life and career ahead of her. Defense attorneys portrayed Saldivar as a caring, loving person who should not be sent to prison. Jurors Monday convicted Saldivar of fatally shooting 23-year-old Selena Quintanilla Perez at a Days Inn motel in Corpus Christi. Prosecutors contended Saldivar, 35, deliberately shot Selena because she was about to be fired for embezzling $30,000. Defense attorneys argued unsuccessfully to the jury that the shooting was a tragic accident when Saldivar's five-shot .38-caliber revolver unintentionally discharged.