More Delicious Corruption Trial Leftovers: Juror Says "There Was a Lot of Disagreeing," Fax Machine Was "the Talk of the Day"
A few hours after she and 11 other jurors found Don Hill and his four co-defendants guilty of 23 of the 29 charges against them in the Dallas City Hall corruption case, Rowlett resident Nedra Frazier gave me a behind-the-scenes peek at the deliberations. Much like my lengthy interview with Don and Sheila Hill, the majority of my conversation with Frazier didn't make it into the cover story in the current paper version of Unfair Park because of space constraints, so I've again pulled together the highlights in the form of a Q & A after the jump.
Sam Merten According to juror Nedra Frazier, the arguments against conspiracy surrounded Rickey Robertson, seen here leaving the courthouse with his wife and baby daughter after the jury found him guilty on two counts.
Frazier, a 43-year-old wife and mother of two children, had planned on spending the last few months trying to find a new job to replace the one she held for 10 years at Avaya, a telecommunications company, which had been shipped overseas to India at the end of January. Instead, a last-minute challenge in June by the defense alleging that the prosecution had been eliminating jurors based on race resulted in her addition as the last of four black jurors selected.
Because the case involved several defendants and numerous counts, Frazier endorsed a plan to discuss each count as it appeared on the jury's verdict form, which juror Rachel Secore of Dallas confirms. Each count was read out loud, followed by the definitions of the counts, the count as it appeared in the indictment and then the definitions once again. "There was a lot of discussion about the definitions. That part we took very seriously," Secore says.
The jury spent the most time discussing count 20, Frazier says, eventually finding both Hill and Darren Reagan not guilty. "There just wasn't enough evidence on that one." After that decision, jurors took a second look at approximately four other counts, especially regarding Sheila Hill's and Rickey Robertson's involvement. "There were several we had to go back and just really, really think about it and talk about it."
You sound hesitant [to talk]. I'm sure you're ready to be done with it.
It was just overwhelming today, that's all.
What did the jury see as the most damning evidence against the defendants?
Just looking at all the facts, like the video surveillance, the transcripts, testimony -- all those were the factors. So, we had what, over 2, 300 hundred that we had to go through and just make sure and make our verdict.
Was there any one or two things that you saw in particular that really illustrated that there was corruption going on?
There were a lot of things. There were a lot of conversations. A bunch of surveillance. There were a lot of facts out there, details, specifics. Like I said, we had over 2, 300 phone conversations that took place, so you had a bunch of evidence.
What was most difficult about the process of handling so many counts (29) and five defendants?
You take conspiracy with that count and you have to determine what is conspiracy in the count. OK, what did this person do? Why would we think that was conspiracy? So, because you had everybody's opinion, they're like, "No, that's not conspiracy." So you had 12 people with different versions of conspiracy, so you find yourself writing down the information. What does the law say right now -- what's conspiracy? And the documentation they gave us was wonderful -- the juror's instruction book, the indictment book -- all that had the definition in there. So we just had to go back to the board and say, "OK, this is conspiracy. This is bribery. This is extortion," and compare it with the evidence we found with that count.
What was your impression of Don Hill on the stand?
Sam Merten Frazier says she was "shocked" when Don Hill (pictured) took the stand, and his testimony regarding a fax machine was "the talk of the day."
I don't know. I think everybody's like, "Wow." Was it a good idea? I don't know. We didn't think he was gonna testify. We had no idea who was on the list. So when he did get up to speak, we were stunned. We had no idea that he was going to get up and testify. I was just shocked. The one thing that stuck out -- I'm pretty sure in your mind and everybody else's mind -- was the fax machine. (laughs) The fax machine. (laughs) I'm sorry. (Secore says Hill's appearance was not a surprise because the defense referred to Hill's upcoming testimony throughout the trial. Additionally, Hill's attorney, Ray Jackson, revealed in his opening statement that Hill would be testifying.)
The fax machine stuck out most to you?
I'm pretty sure everybody because that was the talk of the day, just talking to everybody. (I followed up on this in a separate conversation, which is provided at the end.)
That he lied about it?
It really wasn't a big factor in the case. I couldn't understand what was ... You had a fax machine. The question wasn't about the fax machine, it was about if you received a document.
So the fact that he was willing to lie about something like that concerned you?
Well, that and just some other things in the testimonies. It was so much, what, we listened to 44 testimonies? Oh, my gosh. And he was up there for what, three days I believe?
It was six actually.
Yeah, so it was a lot, back and forth. He's a very intelligent man. He answered the questions. We were able to get a lot of information from that. Did it hurt? I don't know. Like I said, the talk was the fax machine. (laughs)
That was it?
Other than that, I feel like he presented himself well. He talked and explained every question that was asked, but I think that's the main thing that stuck out was the fax machine. It did because they made a big deal out of it.
Again, what stuck out? That he wasn't willing to acknowledge that it was his?
Or even why he even said, "I don't have a fax machine at my home." I think it should have just stuck as, "I didn't receive the documents." And then when he came back to say, "I don't have a fax machine," it's like, "That wasn't one of the questions."
What about his explanation of the infamous $10,000 drop-off at Friendship-West? Did you find it plausible?
(sighs) Just the way it was brought out behind the church -- it was always behind the church -- I'm like, OK. And the way it was given to him and what was written on the envelope: contributions. When you listen to the defense and prosecutors, it was kinda swaying back and forth. And when he got up to testify and said, "I didn't know Reagan was coming to the church." And, of course, when [prosecutor Marcus Bush] played the tape (laughing), it showed where [Reagan] was going to meet him at the church.
So that was important to you?
Everything was important. Yes, every document, every video, surveillance photos. Everything was important -- every testimony. And that's why we took our time and made sure that facts were there.