The judge in the Priscilla Slade trial ruled it a mistrial after jurors told him Friday afternoon they were “hopelessly deadlocked.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Judge Brock Thomas issued the “Allen Charge” or “Dynamite Charge” to the jury, effectively telling them to return to deliberations one more time and try to reach a verdict.
Thomas declared the mistrial just before 4 p.m. Friday.
Jurors were in their fourth full day of deliberations in the trial of the former Texas Southern University president who was accused of misspending school funds to decorate her homes.
“We have agonized over this,” jurors said in their final note before the mistrial was declared. “We have re-examined the evidence, some parts over and over, some parts line by line, in more detail than we ever expected or cared to, to thoroughly fulfill our duty. However, we cannot arrive at a unanimous verdict without doing violence to our consciences.”
“I think it’s clear the jury has worked as hard as they can beyond what they probably thought they would have to do,” DeGeurin said. “I don’t see a purpose at this time to continue.”
After the mistrial was declared, Slade gathered with five other women in a circle in the courtroom. They joined hands and prayed, saying, “Thank you Jesus.”
“I’d just like to say how grateful and thankful I am for the job Mr. DeGuerin has done in terms of bringing out the truth,” Slade said outside the courthouse. “We knew from the beginning that the truth would set us free.”
She went on to thank friends for their prayers and to thank Thomas “for giving me a fair trial.”
DeGuerin was asked if he thought the state would retry the case.
Assistant District Attorney Julian Ramirez sounded intent on a retrial.
“When a case is as important as this one, sometimes it needs to be tried again if that’s what it takes,” Ramirez said.
Ramirez said he believed the jury was closer to finding Slade guilty than not guilty.
“We had information that the great majority of them were willing to convict,” Ramirez said. “There were some who believed she had committed a lesser crime, but still a felony.
“We didn’t hear eveything we wanted to hear that all of us would be satisfied to give a guilty verdict,” said Schweppe, a lawyer. “There just wasn’t enough of a case.”
Prosecutors said Slade misspent more than half a million dollars in TSU funds to make extravagant purchases for her homes, including more than $138,000 on landscaping, more than $100,000 in furniture and other home decorations, including a 25-place dinner set worth nearly $40,000 and about $60,000 on a high-tech security system.
Prosecutors said Slade also misspent school funds to pay for bar tabs, manicures, spa treatments and exercise classes.
DeGeurin said she spent the money to improve TSU’s image and court donors.
DeGeurin said Slade never tried to hide her purchases. He blamed the purchasing problems on other TSU employees who had mismanaged the paperwork and said Slade became the scapegoat for all of TSU’s problems.
Quintin Wiggins, described as Slade’s “yes man” and accomplice by prosecutors, was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May for his part in the misspending.
Two other TSU workers were indicted in the spending scandal. One had charges dropped and the other’s trial is pending.
The allegations against Slade coincided with reports that revealed a pattern of financial mismanagement at TSU and prompted Gov. Rick Perry to call for a state takeover of the university that was later put on hold. The entire nine-member board of regents resigned at Perry’s request.
Enrollment at TSU this fall, 9,544 students, is at its lowest in five years. School officials acknowledge enrollment has been affected by the various scandals at TSU.