Closing arguments important in Eversole trial

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Kevin Reece / 11 News

Posted on March 25, 2011 at 12:48 AM

Updated Friday, Mar 25 at 2:02 PM

HOUSTON -- Friday morning may be the most important part of the corruption trial of Harris County Commissioner Jerry Eversole -- closing arguments.

A prosecutor will try and convince jurors that Eversole took bribes, but  Eversole's lawyer will tell a very different story.

Shortly after the federal indictment, Eversole, in an exclusive interview, told KHOU 11 News that he was glad his case was finally going to trial.

"And I've been getting my butt kicked for three and a half years. I'm now gonna get to tell my side of the story," he said.

But then he chose not to.

In a move that even his attorney Rusty Hardin admits was risky, the defense rested on Wednesday without calling a single witness.

The message they hoped to send to the jury, is that the government's case is weak, and not worth a response.

KHOU 11 News Legal Expert Professor Gerald Treece agreed it was a risky move that makes Friday's closing arguments even more important.

 "If I'm on this jury I don't know what I'd do either," Treece said. "So I think the thing that's really going to happen tomorrow is not just interesting, it's crucial. Because, I doubt right now if the jury, based on all the evidence, has made up its mind."

The federal indictment accuses Eversole of taking nearly $100 thousand in cash and gifts from builder and developer Michael Surface. And that Surface got millions of dollars in county contracts in return.

Eversole's attorney said it wasn't bribery, only innocent exchanges between two good friends.

"It's only against the law to do it, in this case, in return for some official action and Jerry Eversole never did that," Hardin said at the indictment.

An explanation, Treece said, might be enough to sway the jury.

"Because when there's two roads and both of them make sense, doesn't the defendant get the break if the government hasn't shown there's only one road you can take here," Treece said.

When KHOU 11 News last interviewed the commissioner he used a sports analogy:  That this trial was finally his chance to run with the ball.

He may find out tomorrow if he's running home, or to federal prison.

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