Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Nueces County balks at expense request for Saldivar trial


3:17 PM 11/14/1995

CORPUS CHRISTI -- Nueces County officials are questioning a $128,000 bill from Harris County and the city of Houston for expenses related to Yolanda Saldivar's murder trial. "It sounds like it is excessive," Nueces County Judge Richard Borchard said Monday. "I'm very sorry the Oilers are leaving Houston, but Nueces County is not about to provide a down payment to build a new dome (stadium)."

A Harris County jury on Oct. 26 sentenced Saldivar to life in prison for the murder of Tejano singer Selena, who was gunned down March 31 at a Corpus Christi hotel. The trial was moved to Houston on a change of venue because of excessive publicity. According to the bills, Harris County wants $84,150 -- 83 percent of which was spent on security during the trial -- and the city of Houston wants $44,162.78 for expenses incurred during the trial. The two bills combined, which were faxed to Nueces County on single sheets of paper, total $128,312.78.

Nueces County Auditor Peggy Hayes said the bills were "a lot more than what I was expecting" when they arrived Monday and were not accompanied by any supporting documentation, receipts or an itemized explanation of charges. Harris County Auditor Tommy Tompkins said he would be happy to supply detailed records if Nueces County officials request them. "If they want any time records and such then we'll supply that," he said.

Among the expenses, Harris County charged Nueces County $70,432 for security and $2,014 to feed and house the jury. Nueces County was billed $12,411.91 for employee benefits and overtime pay. Hayes said she questioned Harris County's charge of $10,784 for "structural requirements" and the city's charge of $19,164.44 for "officers and sergeants working straight time." "I think we should only be paying for the costs that are above normal, everyday costs," she said. "I bet you we are paying for every cop that is normally down there (at the courthouse)."

In the weeks before the trial, Nueces County officials speculated that the trial could cost the county more than $200,000. Already, the county has been billed $14,500 by the Houston hotel where prosecution and defense attorneys stayed during the trial. The county has yet to receive a bill for legal fees from Saldivar's court-appointed defense team. Precinct 2 Commissioner David Berlanga said he anticipated that the trial costs may exceed $200,000. Because of the cost overrun, the county may have to dip into reserves to cover the expense, Hayes said.