Description: Model of the Smith County courtroom. The exterior side of the model has the manufacturer's sticker: Another Consco model, Product of Construction Service Co., 4907 Ohio Garden Road, Fort Worth, Texas. Model depicts layout and arrangement of room, with removable fixtures for television cameras, furniture, human figures and other accessories. Human figures appear to be made of clay.
Description: Historical Note: This model of the Smith County courtroom was used by the office of the Texas Attorney General in the case of Billie Sol Estes vs. State of Texas in 1965. It was constructed to prove that Estes had a fair trial, not hindered or compromised by the presence of television and news crew in the courtroom. In 1962, Billie Sol Estes, a financier and businessman, was convicted in the District Court for the Seventh Judicial District of Texas at Tyler for swindling. Estes apparently embarked on a scheme in 1958 that allowed his company to receive federal agricultural subsidies in return for growing and storing fertilizer tanks, which did not exist in reality. The scheme yielded his company approximately $21 million in profit a year. When proceedings began in 1962 against Estes, the small state courtroom was filled with people. There were 12 television and news cameramen present; and three microphones were positioned on the judge's bench while others were beamed at the jury box and counsel table. The proceedings were carried live to television viewers and videotapes replaced the Late Movie at night. Some restrictions were placed on news media representatives during the actual three-day trial, but videotapes were made and the opening and closing arguments of the state, the return of the jury's verdict and its receipt by the trial judge were broadcast live on television. In 1965, the U.S. Supreme Court reversed the 1962 conviction and held 5-4 that telecasts of parts of Estes' trial had violated the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. Four members of the court found inherent unfairness in televising the trial because of its potential prejudicial effect upon the judge, the jury, defense and prosecution and the defendant. The fifth member of the majority, Justice Harlan, limited his views to opposing televising of notorious trials or those of widespread public interest. The reversal did not make Estes a free man. In a separate case, Estes had been convicted on March 28, 1963, by a federal district court on four counts of mail fraud and conspiracy and, after the Supreme Court declined to hear his appeal, he was sentenced to serve 15 years in prison. After exhausting appeals and serving six years, he was paroled in 1971. In 1979, he was convicted of tax fraud and served four more years. He was released in 1983. Estes died on May 14, 2013.
Description: Related Collection: Texas Governor Price Daniel campaign files and Texas Court of Criminal Appeals records at the Texas State Archives.
Citation information: ATF0511, Artifacts collection. Archives and Information Division, Texas State Library and Archives Commission.
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