A couple of students from Harvard Law School recently got a taste of the Polk County Sheriff's Office and spent some time in the county jail after going out on assignment for their internships at a Houston legal clinic.
The students had driven to Livingston to interview a Polunsky Unit guard at his house, helping attorneys from the Texas Defender Service get favorable statements about Willie Pondexter, an inmate scheduled for execution on Tuesday.
When they got to the property, the guard's mother told them to drive "around the bend" to her son's house, according to the affidavit of student Ariel Rothstein. They spoke to the guard, who said he didn't know Pondexter. He then asked the students to leave, and they did.
A Polk County sheriff's deputy -- Terry White -- pulled over the students as they were driving back to town and told Rothstein that "driving to a guard's house [is] illegal."
"Deputy White is a large man and was stern with us in the car," Ariel said in her affidavit. "Overall, I found the experience intimidating and frightening."
White took their licenses and had them follow him back to the Polk County Jail, where they were questioned, given warning tickets for criminal trespass and told if they ever returned to the guard's property, "there was a 99 percent chance they would lock us up," according to the affidavit.
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The whole incident was part of a lawsuit asking for a stay of execution for Pondexter that was denied yesterday by the Fifth Circuit Court. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles is ruling today on a clemency petition filed by Pondexter's lawyers from the legal clinic.
Rothstein and the other student, Andrew Freeman, returned to Harvard shortly after the run in with Polk County, and they're both back in law classes, according to a representative from the Texas Defender Service.
"I've spoken to Ariel and she expresses a real sense that she's not welcome in Polk County," she tells Hair Balls. "I think that she'd be scared to go back."
The Polk County Sheriff's Office hasn't returned our calls, but when they do, we'll be sure to update.