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February 2, 2004

Press Contact: Kirston Fortune, UT Law Communications, (512) 471.7330, cell 512-825-9525, kfortune@law.utexas.edu
Trial Contact: Rachel Rushton, 226th District Court Coordinator, 210-335-2421

UPDATE

McFarland Pleads Guilty - No Trial

The McFarland trial scheduled to begin on Monday, February 9, 2004, will not be held. The defendant, Richard McFarland, has decided to enter a guilty plea. All press inquiries should go to State District Judge Sid Harle's office in San Antonio (Rachel Rushton, 226th District Court Coordinator, 210-335-2421).

McFarland Murder Trial Begins Feb. 9 at UT Law

Husband charged in wife’s death; Venue moved from Bexar County to Travis County

WHAT: State v. Richard Marvin McFarland
WHERE: Eidman Courtroom, Connally Center, UT Law, 727 E. Dean Keeton St.
WHEN: Trial begins at 8:30 a.m. on Feb. 9 and at 9 a.m. on subsequent days
WHO: Courtroom proceedings are open to the public and press

AUSTIN, Texas—A jury trial will begin Monday, Feb. 9, at 8:30 a.m. at The University of Texas School of Law in the case of a San Antonio man accused of murdering his 43-year-old wife nearly 15 months ago. The proceedings are open to the public. The trial is also being videotaped.

State District Judge Sid Harle of San Antonio will preside over the proceedings, which are expected to last about two weeks in the Law School’s Kraft W. Eidman Courtroom. Judge Harle ordered the trial moved from Bexar County to Travis County after attorneys for Richard McFarland, the Terrell Hills resident accused of killing his wife, Susan, asked the judge to move the trial to a different county due to the extensive publicity surrounding the case. McFarland was indicted in March 2003 in the slaying of his wife, a manager at SBC who was reported missing the week of Thanksgiving.

Jury selection will begin at the Travis County Court House on Thursday, Feb. 5. With the exception of jury selection, the entire trial will be held at the Law School's state-of the-art courtroom, complete with judge's chambers and jury room. The Eidman Courtroom is available to Texas State and Federal courts for hearings, trials, and appeals—providing space for the State's judicial system and giving students the opportunity to study real courtroom proceedings.

The following information includes a synopsis of the case and details provided by attorneys working on the McFarland case:

Summary of the case
Susan McFarland’s Explorer was discovered near her residence in the middle of the night on Thanksgiving 2002. The Defendant, Richard McFarland, was notified by law enforcement of this at 3:30 a.m. Thereafter, Richard McFarland, Susan’s husband, filed a missing persons report. Seven weeks after the missing persons report was filed, the burned remains of the victim were discovered in a field in south San Antonio. The Defendant was charged with murder.

Change of Venue
The missing mother of three generated widespread and prolonged media exposure. As a result of the extensive media coverage, venue was moved from Bexar County to Travis County.

Counsel
Representing the State as first chair Trial Counsel is Michael Bernard, First Assistant District Attorney for the Bexar County Criminal District Attorneys Office, and Trial Advocacy Instructor for St. Mary’s University School of Law. Serving as second chair Trial Counsel for the State is Catherine Babbitt, Division Chief for the Family Justice and Victim Protection Unit for the Bexar County Criminal District Attorneys Office. Assisting the State is Bettina Richardson, prosecutor for the Family Justice and Victim Protection Unit. Counsel for the defense includes Pat Hancock and Mark Stevens, a well-known defense attorney, who is also an instructor for St. Mary’s University School of Law at the Criminal Justice Clinic.