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Jury Acquits Police Officer of Murder in Slaying of Fellow Officer

June 20, 1987 GMT

SAN ANTONIO, Texas (AP) _ A jury on Friday found a patrolman innocent of murder in the slaying of a fellow officer who was accused of being a vigilante plotting to kill several top police officials.

Farrell Tucker, who was standing when the verdict was read, slumped into his chair and put his hands to his face when the panel pronounced him innocent in the death of his best friend, Stephen R. Smith.

Tucker’s friends and relatives stood and cheered the verdict, reached after five hours of deliberations.

″I hold no aminosity toward anyone,″ Tucker said outside court. ″The jury was able to bring my life back. The jury can never bring back Stephen Smith.″

Jurors declined to speak about their decision.

The slaying cost two police chiefs their jobs and sparked an $8 million lawsuit by 11 families who claimed they were victims of Smith’s vigilante attacks.

In their final arguments, prosecutors said Tucker, 36, probably killed Smith, 31, to save his own job. Tucker said he shot Smith in self-defense, but prosecution witnesses have said Smith could not have been holding a gun on Tucker.

Tucker claimed that Smith, who was on suspension on brutality charges, planned to kill then-Assistant Police Chief Frank Hoyack, Deputy Chief Robert Heuck and then-Bexar County District Attorney Sam Millsap.

″As we’ve heard, Stephen Smith was psychologically on the edge. He was about to crack,″ special prosecutor Sid Harle argued. ″Stephen Smith was on suspension. He didn’t have anything to lose.

″Who had anything to lose? Tucker. ... He could not afford to be dragged down with Stephen Smith. He couldn’t face another suspension. He was going to lose his job because of the letters.

″Farrell Tucker was the judge, the jury and the executioner of Stephen Smith,″ Harle said. ″There was nothing else he could do when got in the car but kill Stephen Smith.″

Terry McDonald, Tucker’s attorney, said that the state’s key witness, Dr. Vincent DiMaio, was arrogant and should not be believed.

DiMaio, chief medical examiner for Bexar County, has written a book about gunshot wounds and testified that Smith had gunshot residue on his right palm, indicating he was trying to fend off an attack.

″Don’t let Dr. DiMaio make you a chapter in his latest book,″ McDonald told the jury.″I pray to God that in this day and time that a man’s life is not judged on a speck of dust.″

Tucker, who did not testify, has been on suspension since his indictment last fall.

In a videotaped re-enactment of the shooting, Tucker claimed that while in Smith’s car, Smith pulled a 9mm on him and forced him to give up his .45- caliber automatic pistol.

Smith, Tucker said, put the 9mm under the driver’s seat and Tucker shot Smith five times with a .357-caliber Magnum service revolver. The .45-caliber gun was found lodged upside between the driver’s seat and the car’s console.

Blood spatters were found on the .357-caliber handgun, but very few on the top of the .45-caliber pistol, testimony has shown.

Assistant District Attorney Bill Harris said Tucker planned to kill Smith.

″Farrell Tucker went over to Stephen Smith’s apartment with two fully loaded large-caliber pistols in his belt,″ Harris said. ″I submit to you that he pulled out the .45 and put it right there between the brake and the seat.

″When Stephen Smith looked in the rearview mirror and began to pull out, Tucker pulled out his gun and started shooting. He literally blew Stephen Smith’s brains out for no justification, for no defense,″ Harris said.

Bill Berchelmann, Tucker’s other attorney, said the state had not proved its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

Tucker could have faced life in prison and a $10,000 fine if he had been convicted.

Smith was a suspect in the December 1982 shooting of Ternell Robert Folsom, who was shot with a .45-caliber automatic while allegedly trying to burglarize a pickup truck.

The day after Smith’s shooting, investigators found about 30 handguns and rifles, several firebombs and about 50,000 rounds of ammunition at Smith’s apartment.

One of the rifles later was linked ballistically to the shooting deaths of Clarence Cain and Adolfo Cuellar, who were killed in 1985.

Smith also was a suspect in the fire-bombings of Heuck’s home in 1983 and Hoyack’s home in 1986 and numerous other vigilante activities.

State District Judge Phil Chavarria did not allow weapons found in Smith’s apartment or testimony about Smith’s alleged vigilante activites to be introduced into evidence.