Kinky Friedman testifies in capital murder case

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Independent gubernatorial candidate Kinky Friedman testified Tuesday on behalf of a man convicted of killing three people during a robbery at a Houston bowling alley.

Friedman testified during the punishment phase of Max Soffar's trial that the defendant should not be executed and questioned the evidence used to convict him.

"I've seen the problems with the lawyers, everybody's dead, all the witnesses are dead, there's no evidence against him," he said. "And I can't even believe he was brought to trial in the first place."

Friedman, a musician-turned-mystery author-turned-politician, said his court appearance had nothing to do with his run for governor. Known for his trademark black cowboy hat and cigar, Friedman needs to collect more than 45,000 signatures after the March 7 primaries to be placed on the November ballot.

Soffar, 50, was sent to death row for the 1980 killings of Arden Alane Felsher, 17; Stephen Allen Sims, 25; and Tommy Lee Temple, 17, at the Fair Lanes Windfern Bowling Center. A fourth victim, Gregory Garner, survived with permanent brain damage and lost his left eye.

But a three-judge federal appeals court panel threw out the conviction in 2004 after deciding Soffar received ineffective legal representation.

A second jury convicted him last week of capital murder.

A drug addict and sometime police informant who had been in and out of mental institutions and reform schools, Soffar confessed to the killings but later recanted.

Defense attorneys said the former truck driver and ironworker had the mental capacity of a 10-year-old when he confessed.

Friedman said he met Soffar while writing an article for Texas Monthly magazine. He interviewed Soffar and exchanged letters with him during his years on death row.

Although he used to support the death penalty, Friedman told jurors he's now against it.

Testimony in the punishment phase ended shortly after Friedman left the witness stand.

(Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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