It’s a case that has taken the federal government three years to build, but round one went to the defense.
Commissioner Jerry Eversole told reporters after his trial ended in a hung jury that he had mixed emotions about the
“The thing I still say we got going for us is we’re telling the truth.”
The truth, according to Eversole’s defense, countered the government’s charge that the Harris County Commissioner used his office for personal gain and to benefit longtime friend Mike Surface.
Jurors struggled in their deliberations. They sent a note to Judge David Hittner, seeking clarification on where you draw the line to justify accepting things of value as an elected official, with someone who does business with the county.
Professor Gerald Treece with the South Texas College of Law, says he’s surprised there aren’t more hung juries, when circumstantial evidence is involved.
“Since on two of the counts it was deadlocked 10-2 in favor of the United States government, I think the government gets an advantage because they sort of can use this as a dry run to see what worked; what didn’t work, and try to call witnesses that can help fill in that gap.”
Prosecutors argued gifts, like a 63-thousand dollar check to pay Eversole’s mortgage, 17-thousand dollars in landscaping, and 30-thousand dollars in antique guns came as a result of his support on county contracts worth millions of dollars to Surface.
The defense answered that the gifts were merely the products of a friendship that began before Eversole came to Commissioner’s Court. Treece says while defense attorney Rusty Hardin succeeded in that argument, round two could still go either way.
“The big question that I think everyone’s asking is who has the advantage now in the re-trial? It could be the government, because they went through the witnesses. They know how to bolster the witnesses, how to get maybe additional witnesses, maybe even expert testimony. But the defense may have the bigger advantage, because they haven’t shown any of their cards. The government doesn’t know what any of the defendant witnesses will say.”
Treece says Eversole could still plead the 5th amendment, which guarantees him the right not to testify.
“While a jury can’t legally use that as an inference of guilt, I think they also don’t divorce themselves from their commonsense. So I think in the next case, I think the defense will put on a case and I think the commissioner will testify, and I predict in advance that will be the ‘make it or break it’ for Jerry Eversole — on how he testifies.”
Eversole’s re-trial could happen as early as the end of April.