The Dope Bowl

Lawyers, goons, money--and some very curious sex toys. Laura Miller does the post-game analysis of the Michael Irvin trial.

"At that time he was coming off knee injuries," says Family Court Judge Hal Gaither, "and his future really did look pretty bleak. No one really knew how well he would perform, and at that time he hadn't signed a really big contract."

Gaither says that once the blood test produced a positive result, Irvin no longer tried to shirk his responsibility, and that he indicated that he would not only support the girl financially but exercise his visitation rights. He was also ordered to add the girl to his Dallas Cowboys group health insurance.

Four months after that child was born--two months after her mother filed the paternity case--Irvin married his current wife, Sandy Harrell, according to Dade County, Florida, marriage-license records. (Her name is commonly spelled Sandi in newspaper articles.)

The marriage occurred shortly after a paternity case was filed against Irvin in Miami, where a woman named Sonya Yvette Johnson had been claiming for several years that Irvin was the father of her baby boy. Right around the time that Irvin was getting married and taking blood tests for the Mesquite woman's paternity case, he was also taking a series of blood tests for the Miami case--which came back negative. Johnson dropped that paternity suit.

But Irvin's paternity troubles apparently were not over, because on February 13, 1995, a 25-year-old Irving woman named Stacy Shore filed suit against him--claiming that he was the father of her then-unborn child. Now that Irvin was married, producing legitimate children and winning Super Bowl games for the Cowboys, those paternity suits had the potential to become very embarrassing.

So Irvin quietly and quickly settled Shore's case out of court. "I can't discuss it with you at all," says the woman's Dallas lawyer, Debra Pritchett. "There's a confidentiality clause," she adds, that was written into the settlement agreement. Shore, who contacted the Observer, refused to comment on her relationship with Irvin or whether she ever had one.

No wonder Irvin lives in such a modest house in Carrollton. It's tough supporting three families--not to mention another one that never made it into court records.

We would have heard more about Irvin's prowess as an adulterer had Rachelle Smith gotten on the stand in front of the jury as planned last Monday, before the lawyers struck a plea agreement.

In one of the great weirdo-isms of the trial, the defense had been planning to destroy Smith's credibility as a witness by proving her a liar--specifically by going after her for saying, as she did the previous Friday out of the presence of the jury, that she had never, ever, slept with Michael Irvin. It was a statement under oath that the defense could prove was a lie--one of the Irvin lawyers told me triumphantly--which is a pretty strange way to try to clear your client's name.

"What did people think they were doing all those times they were together in the hotel room?" says the lawyer, referring to Smith's testimony that she and Irvin had been at a series of drug parties prior to the March incident. Do we have a forest-for-the-trees problem here? Irvin must have thought so.

The district attorney's office was praying that Michael Jerome Irvin would not be able to harness his tremendous ego and would insist, against his defense attorneys' most ardent wishes, that he be allowed to testify on his own behalf in his drug possession case.

If he had, and he did not strictly adhere to the events of that night--and wandered off into being a good family man--Irvin would have gotten absolutely thrashed by the prosecution. There are lots of people who know the intimate details of Irvin's big party-man life--that's one of the drawbacks of doing lots of sleazy stuff with a lot of sleazy people--and the district attorney's office was ready to reveal those details.

In the end, about the only thing that Irvin had on his side was Indidi Kupirai Owens.

Twenty-five-year-old Indidi Owens was a member of the Irvin jury. She was also the only one of five African-Americans who survived the strikes of the prosecution during jury selection.

The other four were struck because they knew of, or had met, Royce West. Or they worked in a job related to the legal system--one guy was a probation officer, for example--that may have given them an exalted status in the eyes of the other jurors. Or one lady--a solid, middle-age woman with a lively way about her--had served once on a hung jury, which the prosecution didn't want to see happen on this case.

But Indidi Owens survived the questioning. Though for the life of me, I don't know why.

On May 1 of this year--less than two months before she was summoned to the courthouse and placed in the Michael Irvin drug possession-case jury pool--Indidi Owens successfully finished serving six months' probation on a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge.

This is what happened: On the afternoon of June 1, 1995, Owens purchased a baggie of marijuana from a known drug house in East Oak Cliff. She had driven up to the house in a 1989 Ford Festiva whose inspection sticker was expired.

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