3-judge panel cites flawed jury instructions in decision to overturn assault conviction
The Fifth Court of Appeals has overturned the June 2005 conviction of Southern Methodist University law professor Jane Dolkart, who was accused of intentionally running down a bicyclist near White Rock Lake a year earlier.
A three-judge panel for the state appeals court agreed with Dolkart that her right to a unanimous verdict was violated by the 292nd District Court. The panel concluded that instructions given to the jury by Judge Henry Wade Jr. were flawed, and it was unclear if the decision was unanimous.
The instructions allowed the jury to convict Dolkart without requiring it to unanimously agree on whether she had committed aggravated bodily injury assault or aggravated assault by threat, the panel said. The record indicated the jury was confused about and may have returned the conviction without unanimity, it said.
The panel rejected Dolkart’s contention that the evidence presented against her in the trial was legally and factually insufficient to support her conviction.
Dolkart’s conviction for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon resulted in a two-year prison sentence and a $1,000 fine, the lightest sentence possible. The judge gave her five years probation as was recommended by the jury.
Dolkart, who specializes in labor and employment law with an emphasis on gender and sexual orientation issues, is on a leave of absence from her position at Southern Methodist University.
Prosecutors have vowed to appeal the ruling and to retry Dolkart if their appeal fails.
Raymond T. Shelton has been hired as special events coordinator for the Resource Center of Dallas, center officials announced this week.
Shelton, who replaces former coordinator Catherine Mouton, is in charge of preparations for all events benefiting the Resource Center, officials said.
The center’s two largest annual fundraisers are Toast to Life, held each February, and Summer Strut, held each June. In addition to coordinating planning for those events, Shelton will also oversee several other events designed to raise money and awareness surrounding HIV and GLBT issues, center officials said.
Shelton is a West Texas native who has spent the last several years in New York City where he worked for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS as writer and co-producer of the organization’s annual events.
Shelton has worked with Broadway Cares since 1993, helping raise more than $100 million for AIDS services.
Shelton has also worked with and written material for numerous Broadway stars, including Lisa Minnelli, Nathan Lane, Chita Rivera, Harvey Fierstein and Bernadette Peters. He was also worked with Alan Cumming, Bebe Neuwirth, Edie Falco, Hugh Jackman, Harry Connick Jr. and Julia Roberts.
“All my big Broadway dreams as a little gay boy growing up in Amarillo came true, just not the way I planned,” Shelton said in a written statement released this week.
“I trained to be an actor and did the struggling actor thing for several years before joining the staff at Broadway Cares. Writing and producing events, I became a part of the community I always dreamed of being a part of while making a difference in the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children living with or affected by HIV and AIDS,” he said. “That work has become my passion, and now I am extremely gratified to be back in Texas where I can be of service to the community here.”
Resource Center officials noted that at one point during his tenure at Broadway Cares, Shelton worked as grants administrator, overseeing the application and disbursement process for grant money to more than 450 AIDS service organizations around the country. The Resource Center of Dallas was one of those organizations.
“Being a Texan, I always paid particular attention to the agencies in Texas that applied for funding through Broadway Cares’ National Grant Program,” Shelton said. “So I was well aware of the impact the Resource Center has made, particularly with its Hot Meals Program that Broadway Cares funding for a number of years.”
Shelton said that when he decided to move to Dallas, he toured the Resource Center and learned more about the variety of programs existing under the center’s umbrella.
“I was blown away by not only what the Resource Center provides for the community, but also by how much the community supports the center,” he said. “I knew then I wanted to be a part of the work here.”
The Resource Center of Dallas, located at 2701 Reagan St., operates the AIDS Resource Center, the Nelson-Tebedo Health Resource Center and the John Thomas Gay and Lesbian Community Center.
Tom Thomas III, the bicyclist Dolkart was accused of hitting with her car, testified that the professor struck him after shaking her fist in the air and screaming. He testified that he was drug on his bike for three feet and had to hold onto the bumper to stay above the concrete.
Thomas, who is a civil lawyer, said Dolkart left the scene when he called 911 to report the incident.
Police officer Craig Bennight, who located Dolkart’s Volkswagen Passat, said the professor became angry with him and claimed Thomas intentionally blocked her from passing him. The officer testified Dolkart told him she had only tapped Thomas, who claimed he had stopped to allow her to pass him.
In her testimony Dolkart denied ever becoming angry and claimed she had accidentally struck Thomas’ bicycle because he suddenly stopped. Dolkart said she was on her way to meet friends for a bicycle ride when the mishap occurred, and that she did not stop to check on Thomas because she was upset and scared.
Although Thomas testified Dolkart followed him very closely before he was struck, the professor told the jury of nine women and three men she was maintaining a reasonable distance between them.
Thomas suffered contusions and abrasions of the left shoulder. He was prescribed pain medication and given a sling to wear.
This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, August 4, 2006.