Selena Forever

The Selena Trial

The Houston Chronicles Files

Saldivar, convicted in murder of Selena, seeking retrial

By PATTY REINERT Copyright 1995 Houston Chronicle

8:40 PM 11/27/1995

Yolanda Saldivar, convicted last month in the murder of Tejano singer Selena, is asking for a new trial based in part on allegations that a juror in the case lied to cover up his friendship with the star's uncle.

In a motion filed in state district court in Houston and Corpus Christi just before the Thanksgiving holiday, lawyers for Saldivar accused juror Jose F. Estimbo of withholding the fact that he knows an uncle of Selena Quintanilla Perez.

The lawyers claim the trial's outcome probably would have been different if Estimbo had disclosed that information on a jur- or questionnaire or during jury selection disqualifying himself from serving on the panel. Estimbo, a 30-year-old electrician, has an unpublished phone number and could not be reached for comment Monday.

Last month, a Houston jury convicted Saldivar, Selena's former fan club president, of fatally shooting the singer outside a Corpus Christi Days Inn March 31. She was sentenced to life in prison. In asking state District Judge Mike Westergren of Nueces County for a new trial, Saldivar's lawyers said their client did not get a fair trial because Estimbo and other jurors were biased against her.

Attorneys Doug Tinker and Patrick McGuire also said Saldivar's defense team was hampered because it was denied access to financial records prosecutors used to show Saldivar may have been stealing money from Selena's businesses before she killed the singer. The six-page motion for a new trial also includes claims that Westergren erred in admitting Saldivar's signed confession in the case, which defense lawyers contend was coerced. The lawyers also complained that a prosecution witness -- motel clerk Shawna Vela -- changed her story between the time she was interviewed by police and the time she testified in court, and said prosecutors failed to reveal the criminal record of another witness, motel maid Maria Norma Martinez.

Martinez, who testified that Saldivar chased Selena after shooting her and called her a "bitch," was wanted for a probation violation at the time she testified, the motion says. Saldivar's lawyers said Estimbo was asked during jury selection whether he knew Selena or any member of her family and he said he did not. Following the three-week trial, a woman claiming to be a former employee of Estimbo came forward to say he had often bragged of being close friends with Selena's uncle and had introduced her to the man, who was not identified in court papers.

The woman, Claire Castro Sanchez, signed an affidavit saying she worked for Estimbo at a Houston pawn shop four years ago. Sanchez said she recognized Estimbo when she saw him being interviewed on television following the trial. Court records show Sanchez has been convicted of theft and cocaine possession and is currently on probation for the drug charge.

A hearing on the motion for a new trial has been tentatively scheduled for late December. It has not been decided whether the hearing should take place in Corpus Christi where the murder occurred, or Houston, where the trial was moved.