Judge Sarah Hughes and deputy sheriff abuse case

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One of the last stories about her (Judge Sarah Hughes) concerns a case I tried shortly before I went to the Magistrate’s office — about — well, no. It was earlier than that. Probably ’73 or ’74 we had a rather involved civil rights case involving a woman who claimed the deputy sheriff had abused her when he arrested her. The facts were that she ran him off the road with her car, and he arrested her. And she ran him off the road and almost killed him because he was trying to serve papers on her husband. He was a warrant officer serving civil warrants — civil process.

Well, we come to trial and they put this evidence on. And she testified about this, and there was this ridiculous story. She testified how she had been abused. Of course, she had no bruises on her body. And she said he beat her up and knocked a couple of teeth out of her, and her teeth were all there. So it was obviously not true — you know, it was easily proven false, but it was her testimony.

So it came time to charge the jury. They submitted, oh, good heavens, 50 or 60 requests for instructions, one of which was an instruction on excessive forced used in an arrest. Under Texas law at that time — and maybe still for all I know — excessive force could render an otherwise lawful arrest illegal. It made a big difference in this civil rights case. If it was an illegal arrest, then we had the civil rights problem.

Well, she wouldn’t give the instruction. And it’s good as gold because it was raised by the evidence. So I was foolish enough to say, “Judge,” I said, “if the sheriff doesn’t object” — “I don’t care if the sheriff objects or not. I object,” she said. So it went to the jury; they found for the sheriff, of course. I said, “We’re going to try this case over because this — that is a lay-down deal. That’s a reversible error.

Well, those lawyers worked on the brief on appeal. They filed a brief with like 50 or 60 points of error, and they left that one out. I couldn’t believe it. Couldn’t believe it.

Well, that’s about all I have to say about the federal court. I think I’ll defer to whoever’s next. Thank you all.

(Applause.)

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