by Adam King
Daily Cougar Staff
The Cougar men's and women's cross country teams travel to the University of North Texas Saturday to compete in the District VI qualifying meet for the Nov. 22 NCAA Championships in Bethlehem, Pa.
The top two teams automatically qualify for the NCAAs with another
possibly receiving an at-large bid.
Arkansas and Baylor will likely place 1-2 and Rice could also get a look.
Neither Houston team is favored to win, but men's coach Howie
Ryan hopes to place high in the 32-team event.
"We hope to get in the top 10," Ryan said. "We're only taking five guys up there, so all five have to do well."
What are the team's chances to take the title and a trip to Bethlehem?
"Probably 50-50 ... a little less than that even," Ryan said. "We're a little young and a year or two off from qualifying for that."
Ryan said freshman Joaquin Torres, who was the team's No. 1 runner at the Southwest Conference meet last week, is expected to lead the team once again.
But Ryan said the team's drawback is its youth.
"They're a young group, and we had only one guy returning on the team this year," he said. "They need the experience.
"The training is different when you come in from high school, so it doesn't sink in overnight. They need to get the experience running that (Denton) course for next year."
The top three individuals not on the winning teams are also invited
to the nationals if they place in the top 15.
That could be good news for sophomore Christy Bench.
The 19-year-old Jersey Village product finished fifth at the SWC meet and has been tops for the women in every race this year.
The improvement has been welcome after she finished 15th in the
SWC meet last year. She was redshirted for the outdoor track season after
a car struck her on campus in March.
PROF EXAMINES MEDIA, THIRD WORLD RACISM
LECTURE EXPLORES BIAS IN MEDIA
by Kevin Patton
Daily Cougar Staff
More than 50 UH students and faculty jammed into a classroom to hear economics Professor Thomas DeGregori speak out on the media's role in racism and poverty in the Third World.
The discussion dealt with racism built into U.S. foreign policy and the historical basis for DeGregori's interpretations and how the media represents developing nations. DeGregori focussed primarily on Haiti, Somalia and South Africa.
"You don't have to be a southern sheriff in a Tennessee Williams play to be a racist," he said.
DeGregori defended Clinton's foreign policy judgement while criticizing the media's historical treatment of Third World politics.
"Overall Clinton got a bad rap from the media," he said, "Clinton's critics are inconsistent."
DeGregori said Clinton's decision to hold U.S. troops in Somalia was correct. Clinton has begun to fulfill the U.S. objective, he said.
DeGregori cited several New York Times editorials and their treatment of ousted Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. Some columnists from the Houston Chronicle and The Daily Cougar were also used as a basis for his judgement of racism within the media.
In order for this racism to work two things are needed, he said. "One, the willingness to believe the worst of someone not like us, and two, the inability to see the worst in those like you. We see the world through a set of eyes that sees lighter-skinned people above others," he said.
It is for these reasons that the media's reporting of foreign policy and developing nations is prejudiced, he said.
"We have it easier having Africans fit what we think they should be, not what they think they should be," he said.
Communication Professor Campbell Titchener said, "Journalism, by definition, is anything but an exact science. A lot of what might appear to be racist, insensitive, sexist or prejudicial may well be inadvertent mistakes, poor word choice or poor copy editing."
In defense of the press, Titchener added that the media is held by the public to an impossibly high standard.
DeGregori said Joseph Conrad's book <I>The Heart of Darkness <P>and the movie <I>Apocalypse Now <P> describe the double standard of how the butchery of light-skinned people receives amnesty, and the violence of non-whites is considered savage.
"I personally find it immoral to grant amnesty to (imperialists)," he said.
DeGregori said he remembered instances of a double standard in his childhood.
"When we were caught doing something wrong, we were just being boys. But when the Mexican boys did the same thing it was considered a serious problem," he said.
Student reaction to DeGregori's message was positive.
"I think it was excellent, said James Benthall, a post graduate anthropology student. "It pointed out a lot that we don't want to face."
Steven Shabo, a history sophomore said, "He was all over the place, it was like getting hit with a history book."
The event was sponsored by the Economics Club.
IFC TRIED TO QUIET BANNER INCIDENT
by Rivka Gewirtz
Daily Cougar Staff
While Students' Association President and Sigma Phi Epsilon member Jason Fuller is under scrutiny for slander/libel, discrimination and disorderly conduct charges by the Interfraternity Council, witnesses to the alleged crime have been asked to sign a form promising to stay quiet.
Fuller and SA College of Business Administration senator Hunter Jackson have been accused of hanging a banner about rival fraternity Tau Kappa Epsilon reading "Tau Kappa Everyone. We're here and we're queer."
Charges were pressed through the Interfraternity Council by TKE President James Meinen, who used Campus Wide Activities Coordinator Tonya Frederick as his witness.
Frederick and Meinen were both asked to sign an IFC report contract stating that they would not release any of the facts publicly. The contract is part of the IFC bylaws that ask for judicial hearing confidentiality. IFC's Staff Advisor John Logan said the meeting will be closed unless the accused ask for it to be open. He said the confidentiality law mirrors the UH student code.
According to the state's "open meeting law," however, it is illegal to keep the meeting closed. The penalty for closing a meeting held in a state institution ranges from $100 to $500 and/or one-to-six months in jail.
Logan says he is looking at changing the council's bylaws about
the contract signing, but that judicial hearing confidentiality should
be kept closed. He says IFC meetings may not be affected by the state's
laws because although they are held in university space, they are not a
Meinen, who already released the affidavit to the press, said the form he signed was a Greek system "cover our ass" form. He said that he turned it in because his fraternity has been "stabbed in the back."
Meinen is angry because TKE is frequently attacked by other fraternities
and he says the "criminals" are never caught and investigated.
Fuller says he is innocent and has always supported "inter-fraternalism." He asked that the affidavit not be printed because the IFC judicial code, which he helped write, promises confidentiality.
The affidavit states that four men were seen at midnight Tuesday, Oct. 12, in the University Center with a banner resembling one that was seen hanging in Agnes Arnold Hall Wednesday morning.
Jackson said the witnesses only saw "table clothes that must have looked like the banner. The day that being on campus on Tuesday at 11 p.m. becomes a crime, we'll write it into the <I>Student Handbook<P>," he said.
Elizabeth Lee, president of the Gay, Lesbian or Bisexual Alliance on campus, said the banner is offensive to all gays and lesbians, but that she is giving Fuller the benefit of the doubt. She says that he will be asked to make a public apology to all "gays, lesbians and minorities" if he is found guilty.
Although Lee said she will give Fuller the benefit of the doubt, she said Jackson has been too "publicly anti-gay" for her to believe him innocent.
Fuller said he will attend next week's GLOBAL meeting to tell
his side of the story.
LAW SCHOOL OFFERS EXCLUSIVE PROGRAM
by Annette Baird
Daily Cougar Staff
UH has become the first public university, and one of only three universities in the country, to offer a Master of Law degree in intellectual property law.
At $120 per semester hour for Texas residents and $210 for non-residents, the program is a bargain compared to the programs at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. and John Marshall University in Chicago (the only other universities offering an intellectual property law program) where costs are five or six time higher, said Janet Fleming, coordinator for the Graduate Legal Studies Program.
The Texas Coordinating Board for Higher Education approved UH's proposal to offer the new degree at the end of October.
"We are delighted to have this program because it's not easy to get a new program in this political climate," said Stephen K. Huber, director of the Law Center's Graduate Studies Program.
Huber said intellectual property law is a big growth area. "Houston has a huge Intellectual Property Bar. (Houston) is a major center for patent work, and we have the energy business and health industry," Huber said.
The program will provide advanced education for attorneys who want to specialize or update their knowledge about developments in law.
A few students may begin in the spring, but the program will begin full-scale operation in the fall of 1994, said Fleming.
"By fall, we expect to take a mixture of 15 or so full and part-time students," Huber said.
The program will include patent, copyright, trademark and trade secret law. Twenty-four semester hours and a thesis are the requirements of the program.
To qualify for the program, students need to have completed their first law degree, and because of the nature of intellectual property law, students should have their undergraduate degree in science or engineering, Huber said.
"We expect to attract high quality students from all over the
country because of the comparative low cost of the program," Huber said.
For more information about the Graduate Studies Program at the Law Center, call 743-2080.
BIG MEN SHOW IT OFF FOR ANNUAL CAMPUS PAGEANT
by Stori Carpenter
UH's new Big Man On Campus Rob Snow beat out 30 other UH macho men at this year's competition.
Zeta Tau Alpha, a social sorority on campus, hosted its 10th annual male beauty pageant Tuesday.
"I entered just for fun and I was very surprised to win. As BMOC I will try to become more active in campus activities and encourage others to do the same," said Snow, a physical therapy major.
Contestants showed their different talents on stage as they competed for the title. Examples were gymnastic stunts and belly dancing.
J. D. Bush a sophomore civil engineering major said, "I wanted
to be BMOC. I showed off by doing a back flip so the judges would remember
Recent arguments that beauty pageants are sexist were denied by the BMOC contestants.
Derek Adams a senior RTV major said, "I don't feel the pageant is degrading towards men. We're not asked to do anything tacky, and I would do it again next year."
Local celebrities judging the event were UH Athletic Director Bill Carr, socialite Laura Sakowitz, Pasadena mayor's wife Jeanie Isbell, Miss Southeast Houston Chelsi Smith, Houston Post Fashion Editor Susan Chadwick, founding chairman of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation Marsha Cameron and marketing director for Page Parks Modeling Mimi Huynh.
Susan Lennon morning DJ for 96.5 emceed the show.
The contestants were judged on their stage presence and appearance in casual, swim, and evening wear.
The personality was score was based on how well they introduced
themselves when they first entered the stage.
Besides students watching UH men strut up and down the stage, the pageant had a serious purpose.
The proceeds from the pageant go to the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation, ZTA's philanthropy.
Cameron spoke to the audience during intermission about the importance
of early detection as a means of fighting the disease.
She said, ZTA has helped raise more than $90 thousand this year in Houston alone.
The sorority adopted the foundation as its philanthropy because
it wanted to contribute to an organization that helped women inflicted
with breast cancer, Beverly Ralls, president of ZTA, said.
HARLEM BLUES PLAY FOCUSES ON REDEMPTION, DRUG ADDICTION
by LaShawn Whorton
While Harlem has been the setting or subject of much African-American literature, there had never been a treatment of Bayou St. Claude, a fictitious rural town in Southwest Louisiana — until now.
"There is no safe place from drugs, not even in America's two-horse towns," says playwright Elizabeth Brown-Guillory in her latest play, <I>Saving Grace<P>.
Two summers ago while Brown-Guillory, an associate professor of English, was studying at the Schomburg Center for African-American Culture in Harlem, the idea for a new play was born. She had gone to the Schomburg Library on a grant from the University of Houston to study black women's theater. She became immersed in theater that summer.
She was revising her play <I>Just a Little Mark<P> for a fall 1992 production. That summer, she also saw August Wilson's play <I>Two Trains Running<P> on Broadway. One day, on a subway from Harlem to Manhattan, Brown-Guillory tucked away a snapshot of life that would become the genesis of <I>Saving Grace<P>.
"On the subway, I looked across and saw a beautiful young woman, perhaps in her mid20s. She caught my eye because she had the physical features of my six-year-old. I imagined my daughter would look like her in about twenty years. My casual glance became a stare when I noticed the young woman was terribly unkempt, had swollen, faded, reddened eyes, and she was alternately laughing, crying and talking to herself like the rest of the world was beyond her reach."
Brown-Guillory's work addresses the abuse of both legal and illegal drugs in society. "That young woman's eyes haunted me because I kept thinking that she looked so much like my child. I knew the streets could eat up anybody's child, and it concerned me."
Two years later — after her research in Harlem — she is adding the final touches to the play, which explores drug addiction. "This is a play that gets to the core of what many addicts have in common: the struggle to live in a society where people hurt each other and then go in search of an opiate to help them forget."
<I>Saving Grace<P> centers around Grace Benoir — a former high school English teacher turned blues singer — after she survives an attack by a cocaine addict in Bayou St. Claude. She leaves her provincial mother, Viola Benoir, and runs away to Harlem in search of herself. While in Harlem, she recalls her mother's blueprint for living: "You got to make a way out of no way."
After working with Black Women Against Drugs in Harlem, she returns home resolved to confront her uppity bourgeois aunt Cleotha, who is addicted to Xanax, a prescription drug. Grace helps her aunt find the courage to live a drug-free life when her aunt tells her: "I wanted to feel. I didn't want to be numb because I got in the way of somebody's bad day ... I didn't want to live peeping through Xanax or Valium eyes."
The play is peppered with humor as pandemonium breaks out when Grace discovers the Reverend Naethaniel Gitlow, a singing preacher-man, is keeping company with Grace's mother and aunt — sisters-in-law who are arch enemies.
Brown-Guillory's seventh play will be staged by the Houston Suitcase
Theater, a UH student troupe promoting minority theater. Cast members include
Tanya Kelsaw (Cleotha Benoir), Renette Brown (Viola Benoir), Henry Young
(Rev. Naethaniel Gitlow), and Martita Corley (Grace Benoir).
Amiri Baraka (formerly LeRoi Jones), the leading playwright of the Black Arts Movement and author of <I>Dutchman<P> and <I>The Toilet<P>, will attend the premiere of <I>Saving Grace<P> and will read from his award-winning works after the Nov. 18 show. His visit, sponsored by THST and the English Department's Houston Cultural Studies Series, gives students a chance to examine issues of race and survival (in the 1960s) through poetry and drama.
From the Harlem of Zora and Langston, and the Apollo, and the
Black Arts Movement to the folks of Bayou St. Claude, the circle is finally
complete with <I>Grace<P>.
PERUVIAN ART SWARMS
by Ericka Schiche
Daily Cougar Staff
The work of marginalized or stigmatized people tends to reflect a yearning for life on the other side of the problem that holds them hostage.
Theirs is not the freedom purchased by the blood of indentured servants, shackled slaves, forefathers and foremothers. Rather, it is a freedom granted by venturing into a metaphysical space: one where identity is not molded and the soul bears no scars.
"The Broken Vessel: 5 Peruvian Photographers," an exhibit featuring striking portraits of visages and vistas of Peru, addresses the thematic subjects of freedom and rebuilding. The title is derived from a custom practiced by the <I>Huaris<P>, Peruvians who broke ceramic vessels made for special occasions.
On these vessels, artists rendered images of gods from nature, warrior priests and celestial events. The unifying concept behind the exhibit is that each photographer brings fragments—remnants of a people dead physically, not spiritually—to rebuild the world.
Fernando La Rosa's photos suggest the promise of life beyond the frame. His works consist of the traditional frame and a frame of the world—a window (broken or closed), a view from a building. <I>Jamaica, 1987<P>, has a dream-like quality: through a frame of two columns and a broken wall, the patron sees cumulonimbus clouds, exotic foliage and waves meeting a coast. <I>Lima (Higuereta Peru, 1977)<P> is a photograph of a wall in the Peruvian capitol.
Through a rectangular opening in a wall, mountains, trees and wires are visible. This photo speaks to the modern, indigenous, and natural aspects of Peru. La Rosa uses grayness of his subjects to suggest there are no absolutes.
Javier Silva Meinel, who embraces mythos, ethos, the ritual and spirituality, captures both the Christian and indigenous elements of Peruvian culture. His works seem to have been wrought in a documentary style: The subjects are constantly in motion and his work does not have the "staged" look.
He seems cut from the same cloth as Ana Mendieta, and he relies on the tight shot to fully communicate the emotion or truth of a subject. <I>El Angel"<P> features a middle-aged man whose head shot (featuring a leather card with a cross and uncombed hair) is positioned against a painting of wings. <I>Retrato de Mujer<P>, a photo of a man wearing a headdress and wings, can remind patrons of Daedalus and Icarus or bird gods. However, it and other photos present the indigenous world.
Arguably the finest work, <I>La Cruz<P> features a man holding what looks like a cross-shaped coffin—one containing the Christ figure, dark-hued flowers and feathers.
Silva Meinel does not eschew folksiness. In <I>Un Cargador<P>, he presents a haunting photo of a man sitting in a chair. Light shines on his face. Sandals. In the distance, mountains. A village. Simple, but a powerful statement about survival and community.
Roberto Huarcaya's work is less impressive, but his manipulation of images is worth noting. He is interested in juxtaposing the human body and similarly shaped inanimate objects. The works, titled <I>Serie Emergentes<P>, are photos that feature tree branches, naked women who contort their bodies, bats, butterflies, dragonflies and petrified woods.
Fernando Castro's embraces all aspects of Peru. <I>El Regimen Aprista Pinto la Fachada de Su Ciudad Dilecta<P> features two men painting an edifice—wearing straw hats, rags and paint-stained work clothes. It can remind the patron of the plight of menial laborers.
Billy Hare uses the camera to make statements about the meeting of nature and civilization. For example, one of his photos is a halved fish placed atop a Latin index. Another, titled <I>Series Mesas II No. 1, 1993<P> is a work that features a frigate (symbol of the colonizers and explorers) and the sand and flowers of the nations that are visited.
The Rice Media Center exhibit presents as marginalized a people
as those wedded to the idea of freedom.
TRUCK STOP LOVE'S NEW EP SOLID ROCK 'N' ROLL
by Manuel Esparza
Daily Cougar Staff
It's about time that some good, old fashioned, straight-ahead rock 'n' roll band stepped forward to fill the hole left by The Replacements. Truck Stop Love understands the need for unadorned rock and delivers it on this lengthy eponymous EP.
The band's music is a Teflon coated bullet that penetrates the flak vests of grunge, metal, retro rock and all other genres, and goes right down to the elementary particles of guitars, amps and drums. There are no spangles, jangles, or emotion drenched bangles -- just strong banging, clanging, never leave you hanging primordial power notes guaranteed to grab you by the lapels and shake the MTV out of you.
Is it no surprise that Truck Stop Love comes from Kansas? Though other acts have escaped from the Mid West cauldron of conformity, notably John Mellancougar Whatshisname, and Kansas, the band's music doesn't drip with chords as thick as mom's tomato sauce, or have the same sense of fun.
On the down side, the vocals need work. TSL's attempts at harmonizing would work better in an acoustically tuned locker room. The nasal tones do fit the style, but this doesn't necessarily mean that they are pleasing to the ear.
The first single, "Stagnation," has a country boy's elegance to it. The leads move in a simple but ever widening circle across the fretboard. The theme of things seeming to change, but not really, is a rallying point for many bands, but TSL take a more localized view of it. "I've been down to your bar. It looks the same, or did you remodel?" sums up the feelings pretty well.
On the other side, "You Keep Searching," is built for speed, safety features such as whammy bars removed. It has the feel of running red lights without slowing down. Eric Melin's drumming keeps an up-but-steady driving beat that sets the stage for guitarists Rich Yages and Matt Mozier to duel it out. Brad Huhmann's bass is mobile but subtle in this piece.
"Townie" is the longest and the best cut. Chronicling the intrusions one endures in Smallville, USA, it brings out the banality of the neighborhood snoop's existence. It starts off very smooth and measured then blasts out in psychopathic rage in the refrain, returning to its original calm state.
Has this quartet stumbled upon something new or merely forgotten? The craftsmanship of each song is tighter than the blocks in the Great Pyramid of Giza and the songs are just as hard.
Hang up your flannel. Hang up your tie dye. Hang up your penchant
for tweeter blowing distortion driven drivel bands. Put Truck Stop Love
on the music box and enjoy.
LISTENING TO MUSIC MEANS KEEPING AN OPEN MIND
by Tony Lanman
Let me talk about a little something I like to call "the attitude," which, of course, pertains to something musical that has been pissing me off for quite some time.
The attitude is a dislike of certain types of music because of a lack of musical knowledge, an abundance of stupidity, pressure to conform or simple-minded stubbornness. It is affects all types of people and music. And yes, you too.
You , reading this article, are stricken with the attitude. You
may not think you so; you may think you're really broad-minded, but you
probably don't know 75 percent of what you think you know (especially if
you listen to country music).
Please allow me to cite one classic example of the attitude.
It's 1991. I'm in high school economics with my head down on the desk. With me, I have a cassette of a then-local band. An acquaintance relieves me of the tape (thinking I’m asleep) and proceeds to evangelize to the surrounding students about how the band is total crap, without redeeming musical value, etc.
You might be saying to yourself, "Well, he’s allowed his opinion."
The thing that made me angriest was that I knew he had never even heard of the band, much less heard their music, but he found nothing wrong with trashing the band and me in front of the class.
This is one of my first recollections of the attitude and it made
me angry then, but not so much at my friend. It only made me think less
Now let me move on to a related peeve: independent labels. Independent labels are the perfect medium for terrible bands who aren't good enough to get onto major labels. Don't get me wrong. There are plenty of really good bands out there that are on "indie" labels, but they are few and far between amid the plethora of no-talent, unoriginal, shock-value bands out there.
Where does the attitude enter, you ask? It wanders in with the people who listen to these bands. I find myself asking why people listen to them. Simple, it's because being different makes them feel special and somehow above the ordinary. Which is true to some extent, but when it extends to not being able to tell good from bad and listening to trash because your friends do, it defeats the purpose of looking to musical alternatives besides the radio and MTV.
You become as much of a conformist as someone who listens to top-40 exclusively — you just smell different.
What strikes me as odd is that some bad indie bands sound like bad major-label bands that are considered cheesy or commercial compared to the indie bands.
My point? Listen intelligently.
Lanman is a senior RTV major.
AGGIES HUMBLED IN HOFHEINZ
SENIORS A TRIPLE THREAT IN THEIR FINAL HOME GAME
by Adam King
Daily Cougar Staff
Throw in a touch of sadness, some great defense and a good old Aggie whipping, and you have the makings for a great volleyball game.
That was the case Wednesday night as Houston dissected Texas A&M (24-6, 7-3 Southwest Conference) in three straight games at Hofheinz Pavilion to pay back a 3-1 loss it suffered at College Station Oct. 13.
That loss set the Cougars off on a 9-2 run, culminating in Wednesday's 15-11, 15-3, 15-13 victory in front of 746 rowdy fans. It's the first time this season Houston, with its 14-14 overall record (6-4 SWC), has reached the .500 mark.
"It's the most gratifying win of the year," said Houston coach
Bill Walton. "Defensively, that's one of the best efforts I've seen out
of our team.
"We just had an attitude about ourselves that said, 'Forget it, the ball is just not going down on our side of the net.'"
Lilly Denoon, usually known for her offensive prowess, had an exceptional defensive game in leading the team with seven blocks. Of course, she also added 13 kills and a .370 kill percentage.
But it was the three seniors who were playing their last game at home that stepped up with inspired play when it counted most.
Joellen Kliafas had two kills, a service ace and six digs. Wendy Munzel added five kills, six digs and two service aces to close out her Hofheinz career. Each had two blocks.
But nothing epitomized the Cougars' domination more than the play
of outgoing senior Ashley Mulkey in the third game.
With the score knotted at 5-5, Mulkey went on a rampage. She tipped the decisive kill to finish a flurry of sideouts by both teams and started a six-point run with consecutive kills to grab an 11-6 Houston lead.
And she did it all with "chills, nausea and shakes," which Walton attributed to food poisoning. Carla Maul was also affected, but it was impossible to tell the way she and Mulkey played.
"Both of them were as pale as the (white) O (in Houston) on the
floor," Walton said. "They both hung in there and fought real hard."
Heidi Sticksel said it all when she pointed at Mulkey after the game and said, "You're the king of rock." Mulkey was a little more humble.
"I didn't feel like I did anything special," she said. "It's my last game here and I wanted to make the most of it."
Houston went to match point with a 14-8 lead, but hard-hitting Sheila Morgan took over for the Aggies, ranked No. 6 in the South region, and brought them within 14-13. Morgan ultimately did her own team in with a long shot out of bounds for the Cougar victory.
"They deserved what they got," Munzel said. "Any time a team comes
here and expects to kick us, I say welcome to it. We're pretty dominant
in our gym right now."
LAW PROF BALANCES JUSTICE AND MOTHERHOOD
by Debbie Callier
Criminal law is a nasty business, and still Sandra Guerra found herself drawn to it.
While the assistant law professor studied at Yale University Law School — and spent two years in Manhattan as an assistant district attorney before coming to Houston — she came to appreciate the field of law.
"It's about justice and trying to create a society we're happy with."
Guerra entered law school interested in legal reform, voting rights and developing a political system that works. Her mother said, "Whatever you do, don't go into criminal law." She suggested tax law — with a nice office and stable income — but eventually Guerra realized criminal law dealt more with human nature.
As an assistant district attorney, Guerra worked in the appellate division evaluating transcripts and evidence from trials and wrote legal briefs in support of guilty verdicts. Then she argued the cases to a panel of judges. The challenge was to be prepared to argue the law from related cases and presenting her case in 10 to 15 minutes.
Later she moved to a more demanding job in what she calls the
"trenches" — trial work. Her division handled some notorious cases: the
preppy murders case, the Central Park jogger case, the John Gotti trial,
and the Joel Steinberg trial; he was a lawyer who adopted two children
— then killed one.
Her biggest accomplishment as a trial lawyer was getting a guilty verdict in the prosecution of six abortion protestors. "It was a highly sensitive case … we were among the first offices in the country to obtain jail sentences," Guerra said.
During that period, but in another division, John F. Kennedy, Jr. chased paper trails and handled white collar crimes with the special prosecutions group. "The first thing people always ask me is, 'Did you know JFK, Jr.?'" Guerra met him, but she said he guarded his privacy and liked to stay out of public view.
Guerra has relished her time in criminal law and has refashioned her experiences into classroom tools with emphasis on the complexity of justice and human nature.
"Most criminals are not thoroughly bad," she said. "Initially, students tend to think of issues in stark terms — black and white. They think the criminals are the bad guys, that they are always the bad guys."
She has her students visit prisons, courtrooms, and eyewitness line-ups. The students ride in police cars with on-duty officers. They talk to shooting victims, get caught up in car chases, go where the police go. "It's important experience," she said. "They see how police do their job, how the community is served, how issues affect real people."
With her emphasis on practical experience, she frequently invites speakers to her class. "Students tend to listen more when information comes from someone who is really (out) there and sees it every day."
Speakers give her law students a broader perspective. Judge William Wayne Justice, the federal judge who put the Texas prison system under federal court supervision for 20 years, spoke with them, as did Richard "Racehorse" Haynes, the noted criminal defense lawyer and Jim Oitzinger, who represented the inmates of the Harris County Jail in a class action suit.
Former inmates from both federal and Texas prisons have amazed students with their rehabilitation. One former Texas inmate now gives speeches, counsels other prisoners and promotes a half-way house for released prisoners.
Guerra teaches five courses. Two of them — Prisoners' Rights and Sentencing — are seminars she designed herself. She emphasizes practical experience but stresses the importance of knowing theory and principles as well. "The difference between a good lawyer and a great lawyer is that a great lawyer will see flaws or areas of weakness and be able to make the most of them," she said. "For example, a criminal defense lawyer may look at the law under which his client is clearly guilty, but knows that his client should be acquitted because the law itself is unconstitutional.
Guerra does her part to remedy injustice through her teaching, writing and her active involvement in the community. Two years ago, she initiated a mentor program for Hispanic law students in Houston.
She is on campus five days a week and also works at home, at least while her 20-month-old son Andrew is sleeping.
And like most working mothers, she finds he takes up much of the time she used to spend playing tennis, reading novels or scuba diving.
When she smiles at his pictures — lovingly displayed on the shelves in her office — you see that she has clearly done some prioritizing.