Austin Finds Its Great White Defendant

Gabrielle Nestande, a former legislative aide in the Texas House of Representatives, faced a public-relations nightmare when standing trial for drunken driving and a fatal hit-and-run in Austin, Texas. The 25-year-old was privileged, wealthy, and a Republican. Blonde and preppy looking, the Baylor University graduate thus became red meat for the trial-watching mob and prosecutors in Austin -- a politically liberal mecca in a conservative red state. She became, in Tom Wolfe's words from Bonfire of the Vanities, Austin's own Great White Defendant. Many wanted the native Californian's head because of who she was -- not because of what she was alleged to have done. This included prosecutors who portrayed her as a "heartless rich bitch," as defense lawyer Perry Minton complained last week to a packed court room. The six-day trial riveted many in Austin, and it turned on its head the popular notion that the rich and powerful automatically get favored treatment in the criminal-justice...(Read Full Article)