By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Try, try again
It took only 22 years, three trials, and a long stretch on death row for a man who is likely innocent to be released from prison. Now another Tyler grand jury is ready to look into the Kerry Max Cook case.
This time, they're starting by reading the papers and watching the news. Bright people.
A Smith County grand jury has subpoenaed the Dallas Observer, the Tyler Morning Telegraph, and Tyler television stations demanding copies of anything written or broadcast about the case since February 16, when Cook pleaded no contest to charges that he murdered Linda Jo Edwards in Tyler in 1977. Cook spent 17 years on death row thanks to Smith County prosecutors and cops who fibbed, connived, and bent rules to put him there (see "Innocence lost," July 15 and 22). He entered his plea in exchange for being set free.
The Observer's subpoena arrived Monday, demanding that our "Custodian of Records, Editorial Department," turn over our stories. We don't really have a custodian of records, but the editors decided Buzz, who should know better than leave the office for lunch, is the designated custodian.
We sent off a couple of old issues to Tyler. We didn't even charge the usual $4.50 for copies. But we must say, for the record for which we are the custodian, this subpoena reeks. Smith County had 22 years to get this case right. They didn't, and what's the best they can do now? Subpoena any news organization that interviewed Cook since his release? That smells of either harassment or a public relations whitewash.
Then again, maybe Smith County prosecutors are serious this time about investigating whether they may have nailed an innocent man. We'd ask them, but they're not talking. Cook, however, is:
"I can only hope that with the world watching that what the grand jury will be in fact investigating is that which has been completely ignored through three trials and 22 years of persecution: serious instances of perjury and...police and prosecutorial misconduct," Cook wrote in a letter sent to media.
The police force that protects Dallas Area Rapid Transit riders has grown dramatically in the past decade. So, apparently, have the problems for DART Police Chief Juan Rodriguez. Rodriguez got the equivalent of a kick in the hiney from his subordinates this week. The Dallas Police Patrolmen's Union polled its DART officers about their confidence in the chief. Some 86 percent of the 84 DART officers who voted said they had none, according to union President Richard Wilson.
Wilson says the DART officers are concerned that Rodriguez is not adequately providing for their safety. They are angry that DART has delayed setting up procedures to allow the transit cops to book the people they arrest into jail. DART cops now must contact city police to get an offender into jail.
Wilson plans to meet with Rodriguez this week to see whether the two sides can resolve some of the differences. Maybe not. Rodriguez, who wouldn't speak with Buzz, told DART spokesman Morgan Lyons that he would not meet with Wilson, who is not a DART cop. Instead, he said he intended to meet with transit cops who serve in leadership positions in the union.