Interview with Vic Feazell

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People and Organizations 
  •  Adams, Jim (Texas Department of Public Safety, D.P.S.) 
  •  Bark, Ed 
  •  Belyeu, Clifton Eugene 
  •  Bolton, Melody Lundren  
  •  Bush, George W.  
  •  Butler, Ned 
  •  Cater, Lisa 
  •  Deaconson, David 
  •  Deeb, Muneer 
  •  Frels, Jack Curtis (U.S. Attorney's Office, Austin, Texas) 
  •  Graf, Clare 
  •  Graf, Ed 
  •  Hall, Don 
  •  Kelly, Carl Eugene 
  •  Kelly, Gayle 
  •  Kettler, Dick 
  •  Lockhoff, Reed 
  •  Lucas, Henry Lee 
  •  Mattox, Jim (Texas Attorney General) 
  •  Melendez, Gilbert 
  •  Nowlin, James R. (Judge, U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas, Austin Division) 
  •  Rich, Kate 
  •  Richardson, Gary 
  •  Rowlett, Tracy 
  •  Simons, Truman 
  •  Simpson, O.J. 
  •  Spence, David 
  •  Weinberg, Dan (Captain) 
Topics (HRDI Thesaurus) 
  •  Introduction and Consent 
  •  Background 
  •  David Spence and the Lake Waco Murders 
  •  Clifford Belyeu 
  •  Professional and Personal Toll 
  •  Ed Graff 
  •  Henry Lee Lucas 
  •  Federal Investigation, Rumors, and Media Attacks on Feazell 
  •  Watch Video 2 of "Interview with Mr. Vic Feazell." 
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  •  GABRIEL SOLIS: Thank you for making time to sit down with us. What we're doing is we're an oral history project and we are going around and interviewing people who in some way have either worked or been affected by the death penalty. 
  •  SOLIS: Like Virginia said, we're building an archive of the Center for American History at U.T. Eventually, I think we'll maybe want to put clips or maybe even entire interviews on our website. And I think we might also be interested in sending these interviews to relevant educational institutions from whatever community these interviews were taken— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Great. 
  •  SOLIS:   —museums, libraries, community colleges, and completely open to the public.  
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Great. Yeah I'll answer any questions that you got. I'm very open about how I feel about it.  
  •  SOLIS:  Great. I want to emphasize, as you are probably aware, there's a lot already out there about the work that you've done, and you know, I've watched a lot of interviews that are online now. I've read a lot in preparing for this interview. And so I want to just emphasize before we get started, that this is not a journalistic interview. 
  •  SOLIS: I don't have a set of pre-determined questions. I just have certain areas that I want you to speak of. We're not so much interested in facts that are already part of the historical record. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: Okay.  
  •  SOLIS: We really are interested in what you think is important and what you think should be in the historical record. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  All right. 
  •  SOLIS:  So this interview will be largely up to you. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Now I haven't done any criminal work in a long time, but as best I recall, the legislature finally did pass a life without parole statute.  
  •  SOLIS:  Right. Was that in 2005? 
  •  RAYMOND:  Very recently. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  While I was D.A. I broke ranks with the rest of the district attorneys. It was common for me I guess, But the District Attorneys Association was opposed to that, to life without parole. And I would lobby for it every time, write letters to the legislature. I thought we needed it.  
  •  SOLIS:  That's— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: ‘Cause I would've never prosecuted a death penalty case if we would've had life without parole. 
  •  SOLIS:  And that's something that I—I don't know the extent of your work as D.A. of McLennan County. All I know, I know a lot about just the research for this interview was of course Henry Lee Lucas— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Yeah.  
  •  SOLIS: —and the Lake Waco triple murders. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: Yeah. 
  •  SOLIS: And so really, like I said, this interview will largely be up to you, you telling the historical record what you think is important. And so I would like you to, if you want to talk about Henry Lee Lucas, and even you defending him in Florida— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Sure. 
  •  SOLIS:  —on three capital cases. Was it three capital cases? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  I don't remember.  
  •  SOLiS:  Okay. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  The one I remember is Marietta, Florida where he was accused of killing the Sheriff's dad. 
  •  SOLIS:  Ah— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: And he was down there in that Sheriff's jail. And I remember it was pretty frightening just to go and visit him. They put me right back in the cell with him. First time that had ever happened. Although I wasn't scared of Henry, I was scared of them. 
  •  SOLIS:  Oh, God. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: 'Cause they just went off and left me, all day long. And then came back, "I'm so sorry. We just forgot you back there."  
  •  SOLIS:  And so how many capital cases did you prosecute when you were D.A.? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Personally or my office? 
  •  SOLIS:  Both. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: Okay, I don't know how many my office prosecuted. Quite a few, six or seven probably. And I personally prosecuted four, four and a half.  I picked— No wait a minute.  Spence, Spence. Spence, twice—two different victims. Muneer Deeb. And that was all the Lake Waco murder. So that's three. 
  •  FEAZELL: Clifford Belyeu. That's four. And Ed Graff. That's five. And Ed did not get the death penalty. I didn't really—I didn't really push for it. 
  •  SOLIS:  What was Ed's last name? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Graff.  G-R-A-F-F.  He's still in prison. 
  •  SOLIS:  And so— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  And then I defended one before I was D.A. 
  •  SOLIS:  Okay. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  And I lost it.  
  •  SOLIS:  Right out of law school, I guess? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Yeah, but— 
  •  SOLIS: Because you ran for DA— was it six months or two years after? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Two years. Two years. 
  •  SOLIS:  Let me— are you having some sound? 
  •  RAYMOND:  I have no sound. 
  •  SOLIS:  Okay, one second. 
  •  SOLIS:  Please hold that.  Please hold that thought. 
  •  RAYMOND: Sorry about that. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: You know what, I better turn mine off, too.  
  •  SOLIS:  You were talking about how you put together. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Yeah, it's not a very slick website. It's just a banner and then a whole list of documents, but nearly the whole, everything I could find is on there. 
  •  FEAZELL: And it's because I was always getting calls or emails from people who had read the book or who had talked to somebody, either tell me more about this, that, or the other. 
  •  FEAZELL: Oh he's such a bad guy. Or, I don't think he did it. I've heard this and I've heard that. So, I just send them to the website. Go read the transcript. Read the transcript then we'll talk about it. 
  •  FEAZELL: I got to where I got tired of talking to people about it. But David—and you can read the transcript and see—David was a very, very violent person. Not just the Lake Waco murder that he was convicted of, but he had been sent to prison the first time for robbing a convenience store with a hatchet. 
  •  FEAZELL: He'd been sent to prison a second time for kidnapping a young boy who was seventeen, he and Gilbert Melendez, one the co-defendants, and slicing him up terribly with a knife. We believe probably the same knife that he committed the Lake murder with. That knife turned up missing. 
  •  FEAZELL: And forced the young man to give Gilbert a blowjob. And he—his name is [ommitted], he came and testified in both of Spence's cases in the punishment phases. 
  •  FEAZELL: And then there was a young girl named Lisa Cater who told about a date she had been on with David, and how he took her out to the park and took his knife, cut off her buttons, rubbed the knife up and down her and got kinda crazy and well, "You better be nice to Chili and Chili will be nice to you." 
  •  FEAZELL: And then he bit her on the nipple so hard that she bled. She said she had marks on her breasts for a long time. Some other people came up and she said that if it hadn't been for that she's convinced that she would be dead. So, and then there is just all kinds of stuff. 
  •  FEAZELL: The transcript is there if anybody wants to read it. I was having my concerns about that case from the beginning until the bite mark evidence came in. 
  •  FEAZELL: Bite mark evidence in recent years has been put in bad light. It's been discredited some. That's because you got all kinds of people out there suddenly claiming that they're experts. But I believe our evidence was good. I really do. We had life size photographs made of two of the victims and we had casts made of Spence's teeth. 
  •  FEAZELL: And you could take those teeth and lay them right down in those bite marks. Now on the appeal later they tried to debunk the bite mark evidence. They got—they hired four or five odontologists and said, "Look at these photographs and tell me if you see bite marks." 
  •  FEAZELL: Well, they called it a blind test. I call it a blind leading the blind test 'cause they sent them like fifth generation pictures that were little, like this. Where we had used a photogrammetrist out from the University of New Mexico who had all the equipment and could take the photographs. 
  •  FEAZELL: And like say one of the girls had a gold chain on her when the body was found. We still had the gold chain that came off during the autopsy. 
  •  FEAZELL: So he could take his calipers and, some kind of electronic calipers, and measure that thing and then make the photograph comply to that. He measured in several places and then make it an actual life-size, one-to-one photograph. 
  •  FEAZELL: And so I wished the odontologist had been provided with those documents. If they had contacted us we'd been glad to give it to them. They'd probably come to a different conclusion because bite mark evidence is still good evidence. It's just gotta be done right. 
  •  FEAZELL: It's like anything else. Even D.N.A. can be screwed up. You see labs messing up D.N.A. all the time, you know? So it's as good as the person that does it. 
  •  FEAZELL: Anyway, the bite mark evidence is what convinced me that Spence had really done it. This other stuff, man it had me there. And another prosecutor probably would have gone even without the bite mark evidence. But I didn't feel good about it. 
  •  FEAZELL: And so then with the bite mark evidence we indicted all four of them, and got two death penalties on Spence and one on Deeb. Deeb's was later reversed on a technicality, not on anything having to do with the evidence. 
  •  FEAZELL: We had put in testimony of a guy in jail that Spence had talked to saying that Deeb had hired him to do it, and you gotta get me a lawyer—somehow it fit into the exception of the hearsay at that time. But the Court of Criminal Appeals changed that later and reversed that case and sent it back for another trial. 
  •  FEAZELL: By the time it got back for the second trial I was no longer a D.A. I volunteered to go try that case and nobody took me up on it. By then I was kinda persona non gratis at the Waco courthouse cause of everything that I'd been through in the Lucas aftermath and from getting arrested. 
  •  FEAZELL: Once you're arrested, even if you're found not guilty, then you know I turned around a sued a lot of people involved and not only was I found not guilty, but I took the burden of proof and proved that I was innocent and got the largest libel verdict in the history of the United States. 
  •  FEAZELL: But in spite of that I was never taken up on my offer. I mean I was willing—don't even pay me.  Couldn't do it. They hired two guys out of Dallas or Fort Worth that basically—they were decent lawyers, but you know not what was needed on this kind of odd fact situation case, cause we had to prove a case within a case to get to Deeb. 
  •  FEAZELL: First we had to prove a case that Spence actually did it. So that's three times it was proved that Spence did it. And then we had to also prove that Deeb hired him to do it. 
  •  FEAZELL: You know and I've heard stuff before about, ‘Yeah, well, but that's—your theory was totally flawed on that because the insurance policy that Deeb had bought on her was an accidental death policy, a work policy and it wouldn't have paid. It wouldn't even have paid up." 
  •  FEAZELL: Well, right on the Internet is the testimony of the insurance agent that sold Deeb the policy and he told him about buying it for Gayle Kelly, and he set right on the stand there under oath and said, "Yes, this would have paid.  Even if they'd proved to have been murdered, unless it was proved that Deeb did the murder or had something to do with the murder, this policy would've paid." 
  •  FEAZELL: There it is right there in sworn testimony. So I put that on there because I got tired of having to answer that question about the life insurance policy.  
  •  SOLIS:  I thought it was interesting that on that insurance policy paperwork Deeb's listed as common-law husband. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Yeah, right, which wasn't true either. So you've done your homework? Yeah.  
  •  SOLIS:  I kinda wanted to ask—did you work closely with Truman Simons? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Simons, yes.  
  •  SOLIS:  ‘Cause I know he took on personal work to resolve this. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  He did. It became a mission for him. He was out there. He was one of the first officers on the scene after the bodies were discovered and he remembers that. So did his supervisor, Captain Dan Weinberg. To this day, if Dan talks about that night he tears up. 
  •  FEAZELL: So, yeah, I worked close with Truman. Truman left the police department and went to work for the Sheriff's office. 
  •  FEAZELL: And after I became D.A. then the Sheriff pretty much assigned Truman to my office, investigating most of the major homicides, helping to put the cases together. And after Truman retired, he came to work for me. He works in my Waco office.  
  •  SOLIS:  So can you tell us a little bit about the Clifford Belyeu capital case? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Sure. I cannot remember Clifford's cousin's name. But both of ‘em were involved. He was an eighteen year-old young man who is, I think, mildly retarded. But Clifford and his cousin and Clifford's wife overheard this. They lived in a trailer house up near Cleburne, and he just decided, "let's go rob some rich people." 
  •  FEAZELL: They had a couple ‘try-tos' over in East Texas that didn't work out so well. And then they ended up in their truck driving around in the country outside of West Station about twelve miles north of Waco and they drive by a house on a country road that's got a big satellite dish in the yard and they go, "Aha, rich people."   
  •  FEAZELL: And they pull into the driveway. And at that time the house is owned by the man who owned the Chevrolet dealership in West. And his wife Melanie Bolton was leaving the house as they pulled in to the driveway. She was backing her car out. 
  •  FEAZELL: She was headed up to the church to help sew angel costumes for the Christmas pageant. Or as Truman said, "She was on her way to make some angel uniforms." And they block her in. Made her go back into the house. 
  •  FEAZELL: They robbed the house. Stabbed her seven times, it didn't kill her. So then they blew the top of her head off with a shotgun. Her husband got a phone call, "Where is she? She never showed up at the church." 
  •  FEAZELL: He calls the house. There's no answer. So he goes out to the house and the garage door's open. He sees some muddy footprints. Walks and he sees the blood on the carpet. So he backs out, calls some people from the car dealership. One of 'em comes up. They walk in, they see Melanie. 
  •  FEAZELL: She's laying on the bed and across the room in a chair is the top of her head, upside down, looking back at you. And the blood from this part of her head was going out onto the bedspread and it covered, partially covered a Christmas card, cause she had, right before she left she'd set on the bed and read the mail. 
  •  FEAZELL: And on the front of the card it said, "Peace on Earth." And it had her blood all over it. They had two little children. Truman got right on that one and with the help of some other deputies that shared information, and finding out about the failed attempt over in East Texas, were able to pinpoint to Cleburne, to Belyeu, they show up at the house trailer. 
  •  FEAZELL:  Matter of fact I think even his wife had called some local officials saying, "I think my husband did something." Oh man, he was very abusive to her, too. And those are really sad, sad situations. So they were arrested that night. 
  •  FEAZELL: Still had all the stuff that they had stolen. Had a couple guns that they had taken out of the residence, and had already sawed the barrel off the shotgun. Was planning to go out and do some more robberies the next day with the sawed off shotgun. 
  •  FEAZELL: And we actually found the barrel to the gun laying in his back yard where he had sawed it and just tossed it. And I tried that one with my assistant, David Deaconson, who's a lawyer in Waco now. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I remember telling David there's so much evidence in this case I'm almost embarrassed. You know, we had to roll it in on a cart we had so much that we could tie him to the scene. So, he received the death penalty, and we let his cousin plead to life. Here again, this was at a time when there was no life without parole. 
  •  FEAZELL: I don't even think the cousin deserved life without parole. He was a follower. But when you think about a state that doesn't have life without parole and you look at David Spence and the kind of man he was. 
  •  FEAZELL: Clifford Belyeu, and Clifford had quite a violent history too, and you think that send them down now in the mid-twenties and they're gonna get out in their mid-forties? 'Cause twenty was the max they could do. That to me was more irresponsible and went against my beliefs more than going after the death penalty. So I had to weigh, in my own heart, the lesser of two evils. 
  •  FEAZELL: Go ahead and get the death penalty on this guy or risk him getting out at age forty-five and doing it again after honing his skills in prison for twenty years. 
  •  SOLIS:  What is like day-to-day for you as a human—I don't know if you had a family at the time— 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  I did. 
  •  SOLIS:  —both with the Lake Waco murders and then prosecuting Clifton Belyeu.  What kind of toll either emotionally or professionally, what is that like? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Well, it's hard work.  It's really, really hard work.  Physically and mentally it's exhausting whether you're the prosecutor or the defense.  
  •  FEAZELL: And then it's a real emotional toll too because you are dealing with human life. Not just the life of the person that's on trial, but you've got the victim and then the victim's family. Because they want to be involved every step of the way. 
  •  FEAZELL: They think that if this person is put to death then that's retribution and that closes the chapter for them. Well, they all find out it doesn't. It really doesn't. The only thing that ever will close that chapter from my belief—and this is really hard to talk to the family members of the murder victim about—but the only thing that will make them feel better is forgiveness. 
  •  FEAZELL: Not to say, "Hey, what you did was all right." Not to say, "Hey, I forget it." But no, just say, "I forgive." And I believe in the importance of forgiven, of forgiveness. Not for the person you're forgiving so much as for yourself. 
  •  FEAZELL: And that's the only thing that ever closes the book. Retribution doesn't do it.  I talked to—I never went to an execution. I was invited to all of ‘em and never went to one. I didn't want to see it. I know some family members that did. And every time when they come back they say, "I thought it would bring me peace, but it didn't, it didn't." Well it's not going to. 
  •  FEAZELL: The only thing that will bring—because you've lost a really dear loved one in most cases—the only thing that's really gonna bring peace is to let go of it, and the only way to let go of it is to forgive. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I always say I'm not talking about forgive and forget. We're not called upon to be naïve or put ourselves in a situation where something could happen to us again. 
  •  FEAZELL: Whoever came up with that phrase "forgive and forget," they were the perpetrator. They're just trying to weasel back in. No, don't forget, but forgive. Let go of that emotional charge that goes along with it. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I personally know about forgiveness because for a long time when I was a very wealthy and miserable man 'cause I got rich after that Belo verdict but I was still so miserable. 
  •  FEAZELL: And finally one night it hit me what the problem was. I was carrying around hate and grudges against everybody that had tried to lock me up for something I had not done. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I remember I got up and went in to my study—I got down on my knees and one by one called those people by name and said, "I forgive you. I forgive you. I let this go." 
  •  FEAZELL: And when I got up I didn't pick it back up again. I was a different person after that. Free finally. And that's what people have to do to move on. Did that answer it? 
  •  SOLIS:  Sure. I don't know if you want to talk about the Ed Graf capital case. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL: Yeah. 
  •  SOLIS:  I don't know if you remember a lot about the trial or if there's anything that sticks out particularly in your experience? 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  What sticks out more than anything is the Fourth of July before the trial. Clare Graf, the wife, came to my office—now I'm moving back some, this isn't Fourth of July. I'm going back another year. 
  •  FEAZELL: I had read about the fire in the paper. These are two young boys, his step-sons, that burned to death in the shed behind the house. She came to my office with her brother. He was an optometrist in town, the brother. And she was a schoolteacher. 
  •  FEAZELL: And she says, "I think my husband murdered my children." She had a pretty good story. She said, "I've tried to talk to the police and they're not interested. It's been ruled an accidental death." 
  •  FEAZELL: And I promised her—I was getting ready right then to pack up my car and move to Austin for six weeks for my criminal trial. You know, I told you I was indicted over the Henry Lucas situation. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I told her, I said, I'll tell you what I'll make you a promise: if I'm found not guilty, when I get back to here I'll look into it, see what I can do. If I'm found guilty you're gonna have to talk to the next guy cause they'll take me away in chains. 
  •  FEAZELL: And so I was found not guilty. And when I got back I met with her again. And I met with the local fire marshal and the state fire marshal. And fortunately, one of the firemen just felt funny about the case when he was out there, felt Ed wasn't acting quite right. 
  •  FEAZELL: And the fire department had just gotten a brand new camera, fancy, thirty-five millimeter, top-notch camera. And before anything was moved, he backed up from the debris and he would take one picture like this: click, click. 
  •  FEAZELL: And then one picture pointing down: click, click. And he'd take one step sideways. And he did that around the entire perimeter of the fire scene. Fabulous pictures. We were able to find a lot of evidence in those photographs, because see Ed had all that scraped off the very next day, hauled off in a dump truck and then put the water sprinklers out there. 
  •  FEAZELL: I had asked for volunteers to go out to the city dump and try to retrieve pieces of the building and things like that, and that we were able to—just like on "Bones" on TV, you know, where they lay all that stuff out—that's what we did, putting all that together. 
  •  FEAZELL: Found the latch to the door that it had been closed and latched shut 'cause it had stayed together. No way that those boys locked themselves up from the inside.  Had to get the bodies exhumed. Oh, that caused all kinds of furor, 'cause he was still out. 
  •  FEAZELL: He was an insurance adjuster—no, he was a—yeah, he was an insurance adjuster at the time. He had been a bank vice president before that. But we exhumed the bodies, conducted an autopsy, and got some good evidence from that. 
  •  FEAZELL: Our experts said that that kind of flash fire, at their height, if they'd have been standing up when the fire hit, when it started, that there would've been blistering and problems within the nose, the mouth and the esophagus. 
  •  FEAZELL: But since they were laying down on their backs, and when they were found they were laying on like these little lawn chairs, chaise lounges, even had their arms crossed.  
  •  FEAZELL: So the autopsy showed that they had soot all the way down their windpipes and into their lungs, which means they lived for a good little while after the fire started to get the smoke and the soot into their lungs. 
  •  FEAZELL: Which means they weren't standing up or sitting up when it started, they were laying down. And we had the experts there doing the math and showing how that works. 
  •  FEAZELL: Half the Lutheran Church showed up as character witnesses for Ed at the trial. And I personally had a little bit of a problem with the case. I believed Ed did it.  Totally. No doubt he did it. 
  •  FEAZELL: But in my mind I had a problem as far as future dangerousness. And, 'cause knowing Ed's psychology and all, he was so obsessive compulsive that everything had to be perfect. Everything had to be in order. Everything had to be right. 
  •  FEAZELL: That's part of the way we proved that he did it was by showing how he changed his normal routine in the days and weeks leading up to the murder, which he had actually planned. 
  •  FEAZELL: He was also a real penny pincher. And we were able to prove that—Dimetapp was a prescription drug back then. One of the boys was on it. Every month, when he had five pills left, he'd go down and get it refilled, except this month.  One pill left. He didn't go get it refilled. 
  •  FEAZELL: Every night he would put out on the counter what meat he wanted to have that night, what he wanted Clare to cook when she got home, every single night, but not that night. 
  •  FEAZELL: And when they went to buy—he didn't want to go buy their school clothes.  And every August they'd go and buy the school clothes.  Well, this time he did it, but when they got home wouldn't let them take it out of the bag and wouldn't let them take the receipts off. And soon as the murders were done he goes and exchanges the clothes. 
  •  FEAZELL: I mean, that's the kind of guy Ed was. But I still had a problem with the future dangerousness because he had never shown any signs of violence before. But he and Clare had had their own baby by this time and he didn't like these boys. He spanked them a lot and he hated their daddy coming around to visit ‘em. And this was a way to get rid of them. 
  •  FEAZELL: Also, Clare had told him, "When school starts Ed, I'm leaving you just because you don't treat my other sons right." And it was just his way to try to tidy things up and make his life perfect. But I didn't think Ed would be that dangerous. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I gotta admit that on my final argument, it wasn't like any of my other final arguments. I grew up in the church. I can do a final argument like an evangelist. And this one I just basically got up and said, Do what you think is right. And they came back and gave him life. And he's still in. I contested his parole just a few months ago. 
  •  FEAZELL: But the Fourth of July—here's the interesting thing. That's what I remember about that. In putting this case together I'd gotten to know Claire, I'd gotten to know some of the neighbors. 
  •  FEAZELL: One of the neighbor's name was Earl. I can't remember his last name. But he was gonna be a witness in the case with some of things that he'd seen happen with Ed leading up to this. So was his wife. 
  •  FEAZELL: And on that Fourth of July he says, "Hey, I've got this big party barge out at the lake. Why don't we all get together on Fourth of July and relax before this thing starts the following Monday?" 
  •  FEAZELL:  So, okay, I'll come out and take a little cruise with you and bring my wife and son, but I can't stay very long. 
  •  FEAZELL: Earl got up early that morning 'cause he hadn't been to his boat for awhile—Oh and Ed Graf knew we were all gonna be there because something to do with the boys and Clare says, "No I'm keep—" No, I can't—oh, it was the baby, something to do with the baby.  Ed was gonna have the baby that holiday. 
  •  FEAZELL: And so anyway, Earl goes out. He gets on the boat to make sure everything's gonna be all right. He turns the key and it blows up. Blew him like a roman candle over into the lake. 
  •  FEAZELL: He landed right next to two fishermen who were in a boat. If that hadn't happened he'd a probably drowned. Blew one of his fingers off and it broke his hand or his wrist. 
  •  FEAZELL: The state fire marshal came up and investigated that. He said, "This boat was rigged to blow up." And he showed how the fuel line had been taken off the tank and put right over by the spark plug, and the spark plug thing taken off and put right there so those fumes would ignite. 
  •  FEAZELL: And Ed's job at the time was insurance adjuster doing fire investigations, and he knew how to do that. Now we never made a case on him for it cause the trial started. The next thing, you know, he's down at Huntsville. But to this day I'm convinced it was Ed. He coulda gotten rid of the prosecutor and just about every witness in the case.   
  •  FEAZELL: So it made my wife say, "We're not going to anything with any witnesses or anybody ever again." It's probably a better practice anyway. Things were a little looser back in those days. If I were working now I wouldn't do it just cause I wouldn't want anybody saying "conflict." Yeah, Ed's still there. 
  •  FEAZELL: So we've talked about Spence. We've talked about Deeb. We've talked about Belyeu. We talked about Graf and we talked about Carl Kelly. I think that's about it unless there's one I'm forgetting about.  
  •  SOLIS:  Well I guess if you're interested we could talk a little bit about Henry Lee Lucas.  
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Oh yeah.  Henry confessed to three murders that happened in McLennan County. I was the D.A. and I kept getting calls from the Rangers, "When are you gonna let us bring him up there? Indict this. Put it on the docket. He needs to come up and plead guilty." 
  •  FEAZELL: I said, Well, you know, I think we need to look into it a little. Because one of the murders that he confessed to, we already had a really good suspect that we were working. 
  •  FEAZELL: He was already in jail on a copycat murder, the same kind of murder. I don't remember if it was five or six prostitutes had been killed one after another, about one every couple, three months. And Henry confessed to one of ‘em. Just one. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I was just—Oh, oh, and the fellow we had on the other murder had told Truman Simons, "If y'all convict me fair and square on this one, I'll confess to all the rest." Well, it was like right about that time, I mean it was right at his trial that it hit the paper that Henry had confessed to that other one. 
  •  FEAZELL: So then—I'll think of his name in a minute—the defendant then he backed off. He said, "Naw, I ain't gonna do any of that. I'll let that Henry guy take it." If I can't think of his name while we're sitting here when I get the transcript, I'll pencil it in. 
  •  FEAZELL: But yeah and we convicted him on that one. But anyway so we started looking off to how could Henry have confessed to things that he didn't do? And they'd say, "Well, he told us thing that only the killer could know." Well that's not true. The killer or anybody that looked at the crime scene photos. 
  •  FEAZELL: Like one of the things that had convinced him that he had done this the murder of this prostitute was he said, "And after we dumped her body, we set there and drank a few beers, Budweiser, threw the cans out. Right there." 
  •  FEAZELL: They go, "That's right. There were beer cans around her body. Yeah, that's right. They're in the photograph." And so Henry would look at these photographs and then confess. 
  •  FEAZELL: Then Henry told me, he says, "I decided I'd confess to anything they brought me, unless it had to do with a kid. If you look at all my confessions, I've never confessed to murdering a child cause I just wouldn't want to take that." 
  •  FEAZELL: With anything else they brought him he would take it, no matter, no matter what. Henry was arrested up in Montague County for the murder of Kate Rich. Henry swears—he swore until the day he died he didn't kill any Kate Rich. 
  •  FEAZELL: They arrested him. He said they kept him in a really cold, cold cell. Kept the air conditioner up. And took his clothes away from him—had him in boxer shorts. And they'd come in and tell him they'd make things easier for him if he'd confess. 
  •  FEAZELL: He said, "I finally decided if this is the way law enforcement is, if they're gonna make me confess to one, then I'm just gonna confess to everything." So they walk him over to the courthouse, and when the judge says, "And you're guilty of this? You did it?" Reading him his admonitions. 
  •  FEAZELL: Henry goes, "Yeah, not only this one, but I got sixty others." And so then that's when the media craziness started. They sent him back to his cell to write out these other sixty murders, to confess. So he wrote out this long confession. And I've got a copy of it somewhere. He even drew those pictures of ‘em. Have you seen it? 
  •  SOLIS:  Yes, I have.  
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Little stick figures. It's kinda funny.  
  •  SOLIS:  Some were detailed portraits. 
  •  VIC FEAZELL:  Some were pretty detailed, yeah. And one thing that the Rangers never let out was that none of those sixty ever checked out. None of ‘em. There weren't even any bodies. Wasn't any such murder, but that got things to rolling so they had their task force set up in Georgetown and they were then being a screening agency. 
  •  FEAZELL: So if you think Henry might have killed somebody in your state, send us the offense reports and the pictures and we'll talk to him and if he says, "Yeah I did it," then you can come down and take the confession. And that's the way they did it. 
  •  FEAZELL: And he was up over three hundred when we got our bench warrant and took him out of Georgetown to McLennan County to testify before our grand jury. And at that time he was still saying that he was a big mass murderer. 
  •  FEAZELL: And we opened up our pages that we had put together where we had already been working on this a good while, getting records of him, even some dental records that we found. Well every time he's sitting in the dentist chair, that knocked out a murder. 
  •  FEAZELL: We got his food stamp records from Florida. Every time he went and signed for his food stamps well then that knocked out another murder. And the Rangers would come up with this crazy stuff like, "Oh, well he's got friends that are good forgers," you know? 
  •  FEAZELL:  Every time he goes to sell a load of scrap metal either he or [unknown name] would have to sign when they got the money. "Well, he runs around with forgers. They can forge his name.'" Oh, yeah they're so good and they're gonna go forge names saying that it was Henry selling five dollars worth of scrap metal. Give me a break. 
  •  FEAZELL: So we showed Henry all of that and he looked at me and he smiled really, really big and he says, "I was wondering if anybody was ever gonna figure this out." 
  •  FEAZELL: And then we had a long fight with Georgetown after that. Them trying to get him back. All kinds of legal battles. And that's when the Feds got involved. First time they investigated me it was for violating the civil rights of Henry Lee Lucas. What about the guys that are taking his confession? I'm over here protecting his rights. 
  •  FEAZELL: I'm doing my duty as the D.A.  And what a lot of D.A.s forget, and it just kinda irks me, is the very, very first rule in the Code of Criminal Procedure says it's not the duty of the District Attorney to convict, but to see that justice is done. 
  •  FEAZELL:  I'd never be a D.A. again because all discretion now is pretty much taken away from the D.A.  Most of ‘em feel like they're the lawyer for the cop. No. The D.A. is supposed to be the buffer between the cops and the people. That's what that discretion— prosecutorial discretion is for. Anyway, they fought to get him back. 
  •  FEAZELL: They investigated me in San Antonio, the grand jury down there. We, Mattox and I, had to fly to—he brought his plane to Waco and flew me to San Antonio. I thought they were gonna talk to me. They never even called me in the room. But they were trying to get an indictment on me right then and get the thing off track. But that didn't work. The grand jury wouldn't do it. 
  •  FEAZELL:  So then they just decided to bring in the Feds and start investigating me. Matter of fact, did I show you this when y'all came in where Reed Lockhoof had died? Reed was the Assistant Attorney General that Mattox, one of ‘em, that he had assigned to my office during this time. 
  •  FEAZELL: And the first thing we did before we—before it got real crazy was we gathered up this information that I just told you about that we showed to Henry. Reed Lockhoof, Ned Butler, who was one of my assistants, and me, we all drive down, we had an appointment with Jim Adams, who was head of D.P.S. and over the Rangers. 
  •  FEAZELL: And Mattox had assigned Reed Lockhoof to me because Reed was the assistant A.G. that always represented Jim Adams and the D.P.S. when any of them got sued or in trouble. So he had a good relationship with ‘em. He's the one that got us the appointment. He sat there with me. 
  •  FEAZELL: And I showed Adams all of this and I said, We want to give it back to you and let you investigate it. We're ready to get rid of it. He looks at me and he says, "I'm not gonna investigate any of this. I'm not gonna reopen anything. But I tell you what, I am investigating you." Just like that. Put his little nubby finger out there. 
  •  FEAZELL: And it scared Reed to death. And here's a guy who represented these people. And when we left the building he whispered in my ear, "Don't say anything until we're out of the parking lot." I mean he was afraid they were eavesdropping on us somehow in the parking lot. 
  •  FEAZELL: And so we go off to a coffee shop, me, him and Ed and talk and they're just nervous as all get-out. And I said, Bring it on. George Bush, bring it on. I haven't done anything. I'm clean as a whistle, you know? And Reed goes, "You don't understand. If they want you they can get you." I had no idea what he was talking about. I had no idea. I went back to Waco and I continued with the grand jury. 
  •  FEAZELL: And that's—next thing I know there's teams of F.B.I. agents in the street accompanied by D.P.S. intelligence agents going around, "Have you heard that the D.A. is taking bribes? Have you heard the this?" And telling everybody that I'm under investigation. Telling everybody that I'm about to be indicted. 
  •  FEAZELL: There was nothing there. After three or four months of that the Feds packed their tents and went home. They had already overstayed their—what they were allowed to stay. If they come in and investigate a public official on a tip, they either have to find some evidence within a reasonable time or there has to be a continuing public outcry. Well, they found no evidence. 
  •  FEAZELL: Now everything I'm saying here I found out years later through discovery in the Belo trial. But during my criminal trial I didn't know any of this, see. I didn't know any of it. I was looking at eighty years, no parole. I'd have been in longer than the murderers that I convicted. So, Adams said, "Don't worry about it. We'll get the public outcry.'" 
  •  FEAZELL: And then the next thing I know Channel Eight is running stories on me accusing me of everything under the book. Everything. Everything under the sun. Being soft on drugs, being soft on D.W.I.s, accusing me of taking bribes, accusing me of dismissing good cases. I'm saying, Where is this coming from? 
  •  FEAZELL: They ran eleven episodes over a two and a half month period, and then topped it off with an editorial by Tracy Rowlett recapping all eleven episodes. 
  •  FEAZELL: Well when they did that they kinda messed up because since it was an editorial, there was a law back then, which has unfortunately been changed, that if a station comes out and editorializes against a politician, he gets equal time. 
  •  FEAZELL: So I drove to Dallas. I demanded my equal time. They said, "Come on up."  And I drove up to Dallas and sat down in front of the camera and did my two minutes and ten seconds and it aired. 
  •  FEAZELL: Ed Bark who was the media writer for  Dallas Morning Newsback then just happened to see it on T.V., and the next week he wrote an entire column about it. And he said that, "Feazell did more in his two minutes than they did in their two and a half months." 
  •  FEAZELL:  So it was obvious to most people there was nothing to it. But, that got the public outcry that gave my political opponents something to talk about. So that allowed the Feds to come back in and start investigating me again. 
  •  FEAZELL: They expanded their investigation to investigate every criminal defense lawyer basically in Waco. Oh, man, it was awful what that did to our system, what it did to the level of trust. It was just awful. It was awful for everybody involved. 
  •  FEAZELL: Well, they found two lawyers who did nothing but criminal work and had never deposited a dime of cash in ten years. You can't do that if you're a criminal defense lawyer. 'Cause you get paid a lot in cash. They would pocket every bit of it. So then the Feds went around, they found their clients. "How much did you pay? Do you still have the receipts?" So then they had the receipt. No deposit. 
  •  FEAZELL: And so they'd bring those guys to the grand jury in Austin and say, "We're gonna indict you for tax evasion unless you'll say that you gave Vic Feazell part of that money to dismiss cases for you." 
  •  FEAZELL: One guy said he'd do it. The other guy didn't want to. So they worked it out so they brought these two guys back. One of them, they're supposed to bring some records with ‘em. Dick Kettler goes in first. He was the one that had made the deal. And they let him leave. He drives home. They didn't wait around for his partner. 
  •  FEAZELL: Don Hall goes in and they go, "Where are the records we subpoenaed?" He says, "Dick had ‘em. He was just in here." "No, he says you had ‘em." 
  •  FEAZELL: They held him in contempt, contempt of a grand jury subpoena and put him in jail over the weekend. Here's a man in his sixties, early sixties. Well, that weekend in jail got his attention. They asked him if he wanted to spend his—he told me later they asked him if he wanted to spend his golden years like that. And he didn't. 
  •  FEAZELL: So he and Dick Kettler both testified that they paid me money to dismiss cases for 'em. We go to trial, six-week trial here in Austin. 
  •  FEAZELL: My assistant D.A.s come in and they go, "I dismissed that case. Vic didn't even know that case was in the office. And here's why I dismissed it. See my notes down here? And it was everything from on the video the cop was weaving worse than this guy was.'" Things like that. 
  •  FEAZELL: And these were witnesses that—I'll never understand it. I mean you think the O.J. trial was screwed up? My trial was really screwed up. The government called these people as witnesses, not me. They called ‘em to get up there and blow their whole case. 
  •  FEAZELL:  So the jury found me not guilty on the first vote. Said that it was obvious to them that the government tried to frame me. And my defense was gonna be retaliation for Lucas. But Judge Nowlin, he decided that retaliation is not a defense in the Fifth Circuit, that if I didn't like it I could appeal it. 
  •  FEAZELL: Well, you know where you do your appeals from? From prison. Right? And he said that I was not allowed to mention the name Henry Lucas. 
  •  FEAZELL: Well, my lawyer, Gary Richardson, oh God bless him, he saved me. Great lawyer. He mentioned Lucas every chance he got. And Nowlin was always threatening him with contempt, "I don't care how this thing turns out, I'm putting you in jail when it's over." Then when I got on the witness stand, every chance I got, I said "Henry Lucas." 
  •  FEAZELL: Nowlin got mad one time. He pounded his desk and said, "We're taking a recess. Counsel! Defendant! In my chambers!'" So we're all back in there and he looks at me and says, "Mr. Feazell, if I hear the word Henry Lucas out of your mouth one more time I promise you you're getting the full six months for contempt of court." 
  •  FEAZELL: And I looked at him, I says, Judge Nowlin, does that six month run before my eighty years or after my eighty years? [Laughs.]  
  •  FEAZELL: He knew then that he wasn't gonna control me. We walk in—I says, Besides that, Judge, it's not my fault.  Jack Frels, who was the prosecutor, he opens the door. He opens the door, he knows the rules of evidence and he opens the door. 
  •  FEAZELL: So we go back in. I don't remember what the question was but Frels asked me something right out of the box something that opened the door to Lucas. And I looked at the judge like, I'm about to say it. And he looked at me like, he shook his head, "Yeah, he opened the door." 
  •  FEAZELL: So, bang, there we went. So several of the jurors held a press conference afterwards and said that it was obvious to them the government tried to frame me over Lucas.   
  •  SOLIS:   I just I have to ask, what is that like to be, what does it feel like to be the target of all these governmental organizations who want to punish you essentially for something that is reasonable and should—what does that feel like day-to-day?  
  •  VIC FEAZELL:   It was a rude awakening for me. Now during that—remember this was—this is a story of epic proportions. I mean it went on for years. We started investigating the Lucas thing in late eighty-four, about October, November eighty-four, somewhere in there. I was arrested in eighty-six. My trial was in eighty-seven. And then the Belo trial was in ninety-one. 
  •  FEAZELL: It felt bad. It felt like I had a cloud on me all the time. I would wake up in the morning and I'd go, Oh, God, please. That was a dream. No, it's not. It's still going on. 
  •  FEAZELL: I remember the morning of the verdict I told my wife I said, I really want to promise, you know, that after a little time has gone by that you'll go ahead and get a divorce. Find somebody to raise my son. My child was only four or five then. And we had no savings. We had nothing. I had spent every dime defending myself. And every credit card charged to the max and she was gonna be left with that. 
  •  FEAZELL: So, it was pretty tough, Gabriel. It was tough. Even after I was found not guilty I'd still wake up, Oh, it's over. Thank God.  But I was naïve. I was so naïve because I had been brought up in church. I was a good student. I studied civics. I believed in government. I ran for office. I'd seen the American dream work. Everything was going the way it was supposed to be going. Do right, work hard, you'll be rewarded. 
  •  FEAZELL: And then I saw I was doing right, working hard, and people were trying to destroy me for i, and the people I thought were the good guys. 
  •  FEAZELL: It's like I said, I gave a speech on the courthouse steps after my not guilty verdict and said, When I was going after the crooks that didn't wear badges, I was everybody's hero. But when I started going after the crooks that wear badges, they wanted to get rid of me.  
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Title:Interview with Vic Feazell
Abstract:Vic Feazell was the District Attorney for McLennan County for two terms. In Video 1, Feazell speaks about his capital murder prosecutions of David Wayne Spence and Muneer Deeb, Clifton Belyeu, and Ed Graf. He also describes challenging the bogus confessions of self-proclaimed serial killer Henry Lee Lucas and the retaliation he endured as a result of his investigation. In Video 2, Feazell discusses Texans' attachment to capital punishment, describes his own Baptist upbringing, and explains his thought process as a prosecutor and defense attorney in voir dire (or jury selection). Vic Feazell closes his interview by recommending that people forgive those who have caused them pain.
Sequence:1 of 2
  • Vic FeazellRole: Narrator
  • Texas After Violence ProjectRole: Collaborator
  • Virginia RaymondRole: Interviewer
  • Gabriel SolisRole: Videographer
  • Susanne MasonRole: Transcriber
  • Gabriel SolisRole: Proofreader
Date Created:2008/10/02
Geographic Focus:North America--United States--Texas
Geographic Base:North America--United States--Texas--Austin
Type of Resource:Moving image
    This electronic resource is made available by the University of Texas Libraries solely for the purposes of research, teaching and private study. All intellectual property rights are retained by the legal copyright holders. The University of Texas does not hold the copyright to the content of this file. Formal permission to reuse or republish this content must be obtained from the copyright holder.




Continue with Video 2 of the TAVP Interview with Mr. Vic Feazell.

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