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Monday, October 15, 2007

Mistrail declared in case of Ex-TxSo President

The jury ended up split 6 to 6, but stood united Friday and said they cried and prayed while deliberating the fate of ousted TSU President Priscilla Slade before declaring they were hopelessly deadlocked — resulting in a mistrial.

"They just didn't get to the heart of the case," foreman Charles Schweppe said of the prosecution's case, which accused the former Texas Southern University leader of using school money for her personal benefit.

State District Judge Brock Thomas declared a mistrial in the eight-week trial after jurors for the fourth time in three days informed him they were deadlocked.

Prosecutors say they plan to retry Slade. Defense attorneys preferred an acquittal, but said the hung jury was a blessing.

Slade, 56, was charged with misapplication of fiduciary property of more than $200,000. Prosecutors said she spent more than $500,000 of TSU money on a lavish lifestyle.

During the trial, jurors heard testimony about some of the purchases, including tens of thousands in furniture, $40,000 in fine china, crystal stemware and silverware settings for 25, and $100,000 in bar tabs over six years at Scott Gertner's Skybar and Grille.

After staring at each other across the room for almost two months, Slade and the jurors met face to face on the courthouse steps afterward and wished each other well.

"Good luck to you," Schweppe said.

"God bless you," Slade said.

Schweppe later agreed with defense attorney Mike DeGeurin's assertion that TSU needs someone like Priscilla Slade.

"She did a lot of good things for the university; unfortunately, she did some bad. They need someone like her so they can get the right things done," Schweppe said.

Facing a bank of television cameras, Slade thanked DeGeurin and her supporters.

"We knew from the beginning that the truth would set us free," Slade said. "I am just grateful that God truly answers prayers."

DeGeurin spoke glowingly of the jurors and his client while backhanding prosecutors.

"Every expenditure that they were criticizing — sometimes, often sarcastically — was an investment in Texas Southern University," DeGeurin said. "Dr. Slade's dream for Texas Southern University was working. Everything that she did was consistent with that dream. It was working."

He said he had hoped for a total not-guilty verdict, but that he talked to jurors and six were convinced of his client's innocence.


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