Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

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October 11, 2013

Nursing home parolee who spent over 60 years in prison wants to revisit case

• Harvey Stewart said 'I really don't cry about it' when recalling murder he committed in 1958

RUSK —    It's been over six decades since Harvey Stewart admittedly murdered 26-year-old James Laird by shooting him in the heart.

Combined with a robbery, this Jefferson County crime led to his conviction of life in prison in July 1958.

Around 2011, the 85-year-old was released on parole after serving over 60 years in Texas prison — arguably, the longest such sentence on record in the state.

For some time, Stewart has been fixated on the belief that his jury trial was rigged. He said he wants to revisit that case in court so he can prove he was wronged and get it vacated.

But the 85-year-old Texas prison system parolee, now a resident of a Rusk nursing home, is not looking for forgiveness for the murder itself. He says it was basically self-defense.

"What could make me feel better about killing a man?" he said. "I really don't cry about it. … He tried to kill me and I knew what he was up to, so I took the pistol from him and shot him with his own pistol."

Stewart said he disposed of the pistol in question by tossing it into "the river water that runs through Liberty."

"They don't have the pistol," he said. "I'm not going to give them his pistol. The pistol is destroyed."

While he was incarcerated, Stewart said he made at least three attempts to escape prison — one of which involved sawing the bars off a window and crawling out of it.

Painting a narrative picture akin to a 1950s crime novel, Stewart describes Jefferson County at that time as a bloody underworld filled with corrupt police officials and rigged jury trials — one of which he contends was his.

"In plain language, they rigged my jury," he said.

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