Today's proceedings at the City Hall federal corruption trial opened with a determined attempt by the Dallas city attorney, once again, to bar witnesses from talking about anything that may have happened in a closed "executive" session of the Dallas city council. Basically, Judge Barbara Lynn told the city's lawyer to bag it. They're talkin', as far as she's concerned.
Now it's former Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, back again, being grilled by Doug Greene, the lawyer for former City Plan Commission member D'Angelo Lee.
Greene is asking her about an executive session of the council five years ago, called by Miller, after she learned that former council member, the late James Fantroy, stood to get a big contract for his son's security company depending on how the council voted on the issue before it -- an affordable housing project proposed by developer Bill Fisher, the key government witness in this trial.
Greene wants to know more about a remark former Mayor Pro Tem Don Hill, the lead defendant here, made in the executive session that he thought it should be OK for a developer with a deal in a councilman's district to go to his church and drop $500 on the collection plate before the vote on his deal.
Miller is decidedly more aggressive today, ready to jump down the lawyer's throat. When he tries to cut her off, she says forcefully, "I'd like to answer the question."
Judge Lynn tells Greene, "If you ask the question, you have to let her answer."
Score one for Laura, maybe, depending on how the jury feels about this new Laura, who is much less demure than the Laura who came to court yesterday. She sat up straight and prissy yesterday. Today she's got that newsroom hunch in her shoulders. Watch for that left jab, Mr. Greene. I'm juts sayin'. I've still got some bruises.
Greene is talking about Don Hill and the executive session: "What he was saying was he didn't think that just because they got these new folks in office that they needed these brand-new ethical rules. He didn't feel the need for it, and they cost money."
Long pause. Miller staring him down.
Greene: "Did you understand my question?"
"I didn't know you asked me a question."
More sparring follows. She ain't givin' this guy an inch. Did Laura get her Starbucks this morning?
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