"Nicest Guy" Gets Break

Still on death row, though

U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore has overturned the capital-murder conviction of Mariano Rosales, ruling Harris County prosecutors had improperly rejected minorities from the jury pool.

The technical term for the tossing-minority-jurors claim is a Batson challenge, after the 1986 case where the precedent was set.

And when we saw the NAACP announcement about Gilmore's decision, our first reaction was, "Man, we thought Harris County prosecutors had figured out how to get around Batson challenges a long time ago."

Turns out, the case overturned Friday happened a long time ago.

Rosales was convicted in 1985; he's been appealing ever since.

All the appellate action dealt with whether a judge had fully reviewed the question of whether prosecutors had improperly used race as a reason to dismiss jurors. Up until a recent 5th Circuit ruling, courts had ruled that the question had been fully reviewed.

"None of the facts had been evaluated before," NAACP lawyer Christine Swarns tells Hair Balls. "Once we got the historical evidence in, and deposed the trial prosecutors, the answer became clear."

The underlying facts of the case are pretty much a crime of passion. Rosales went to the trailer of his wife's boyfriend and "whoever was in it was shot," Swarns says.

Local attorney Brian Wice, who's a legal analyst for Channel 2, long ago wrote a magazine piece for Texas Lawyer that examined the case. It was headlined "The Nicest Guy on Death Row."

"He was just a guy, he didn't have any extraneous offenses; he just woke up one morning with marital problems and acted on the impulses a lot of married guys have had — to find the guy who's been sleeping with his wife and put a bullet in his head," Wice tells Hair Balls. "It's not as if this man was ever shown to be a continuing threat to society."

Prosecutors have 30 days to appeal Gilmore's decision. Eventually, it's likely there will be a new trial.

"I'm glad it took only 23 years for them to decide," Wice says sarcastically, "that prosecutors who are not inherently racist can still improperly exclude blacks from juries because they think it will give them a leg up." Richard Connelly

Upside of Recession: Cheap Art

Hair Balls got a notice for a "corporate de-acquisitions sale" at Nau-haus Art Space. Basically, a corporation was kind of "renting to own" its art collection and decided not to bother with the ownership part, and now it's available at a discount.

As the notice explains, "Works included in this group are offered for sale at an amount equal to their value less the amount already paid out by the client's lease agreement over the past five years. In some cases allowances have been made also for damages to the frames caused by installation and removal as well as discoloration due to constant exposure to florescent lighting."

The official sale was in early December, but there's still some works left and they're being offered at around 60 percent off.

Nau-Haus's Dan Allison tells Hair Balls the gallery did a "pretty brisk little business" on the work, which is by artists including Terry Elkins, Casey Williams, Carol Summers and Allison himself and features everything from mixed-media to oil paintings to conceptual pieces to printmaking. About half of it is still available.

Allison says he does these sales from time to time when a corporation is sold or is "moving on in one way or another and there's all this art." In this case, he says, "It was a leased purchase, and if they wanted to keep it they could have...They're not collectors, they're not holding it for the value of the work."

He declined to say where the art had been hanging, but did say that it's possible the de-acquisitions are the result of the failing economy. Cathy Matusow

What Are You Laughing At? You're Not in the Krystal Burger Hall of Fame

There are probably few things in this world that mean immortality more than having your face plastered on the side of a fast-food box. That's what's happened to Houston's Joey, Robert and Steven Clark, who have been inducted into the Krystal Burger Hall of Fame. (Krystal burgers are the White Castle of the South.)

Past inductees have included a former .38 Special guitarist and a member of the Corsairs, (apparently) widely known on the Renaissance circuit for their Irish tunes.

Clark brothers, meet Greatness.

The brothers — Robert is actually a best friend with the same last name — are being honored for a seven-foot tower they built using 450 Krystal boxes. You're thinking the idea came after the brothers ran out of pot one day and decided to clean their apartment. Not really, but pretty close.

Although frankly, talking with the Clarks doesn't do a whole lot to convince you sobriety and a clean head had much to do with this.

"That gets kind of hazy, but we would just go to Krystal at random times, and Robert saved the boxes in his car for whatever reason," Joey Clark tells Hair Balls. "Basically, I got tired of making stuff out of beer cans and said I'll make something out of Krystal boxes because we had so many left over."

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