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Court rejects former millionaire's appeal of murder conviction

Tuesday, August 5, 2003

TYLER, Texas (AP) - A week's worth of a court reporter's transcripts from a 1994 murder trial have been lost over the years, but a state appeals court said a former Tyler millionaire waited far too long to request the records.

Baker Steven Lucas, 58, is serving a 35-year prison term for the 1988 murder of his mother Bette Calvert Lucas, who was bludgeoned and pushed over a railing in the family's Tyler residence.

An initial trial ended in a mistrial, and the second was moved to Dallas because of publicity in Tyler, where the defendant's father, the late Baker Lucas, was a former mayor, city councilman and Realtor, the Tyler Morning Telegraph reported in its Tuesday editions.

The 5th state Court of Appeals in Dallas, in an opinion received Monday by the Smith County district attorney's office, said the defendant failed to request the court reporter's records in a timely manner and did not try to secure them from Court TV, which taped the entire trial, after learning that the court reporter lost her copies.

It was only last year that prosecutors learnbed that a Dallas court attorney had lost four days of records from the 1994 trial.

Lucas' attorney, Troy McKinney of Houston, based much of his argument for a new trial on the lost evidence, but did not proceed with efforts to obtain them from Court TV, the court noted.

A judge previously denied Lucas's claim of indigence, meaning it was solely the defendant's re-sponsibility to obtain the court records. The appeals court said the defendant first asked for the record six years after the deadline for requesting it and three years after the code permitted the court reporter to purge her notes.

The appellate court judges suggested Lucas mistakenly assumed they should have ordered a transcription of the Court TV tapes. The burden was on Lucas to get the tapes transcribed, the court said in its opinion.

According to the appeals court's opinion, "appellant made no attempt to determine whether the tapes even purported to contain missing portions of the proceedings."

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