District judge announces plans to seek Republican nomination

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Nov. 13, 2013 at 5:13 a.m.

A judge who has presided over several trials that have garnered public attention announced Wednesday he will seek re-election.

District Judge Skipper Koetter will likely file Thursday or Friday. He is seeking the Republican Party nomination.

The 267th judicial district he presides over covers Calhoun, DeWitt, Goliad, Jackson, Refugio and Victoria counties.

He was first elected district judge in 2002.

Koetter earned his law degree from the South Texas College of Law in Houston.

In addition to representing people for a variety of legal matters, he's mediated more than 800 disputes. Although judges are prohibited from mediating disputes, the experience helped him later in his career, he said.

"The lawyers are trying to tell a jury a story. Having done mediations and arbitrations before, I understand what they're trying to do," Koetter said, "and I think that helps me provide a better stage for them to each be able to tell their story as completely as possible within the parameters of the rules of evidence."

Before he was an attorney and judge, Koetter, 68, ran a construction business for 10 years. He also served in the Texas Air National Guard for eight years.

Koetter pledged to continue being fair.

"For me, being a judge isn't about partisan politics or playing games, it's about real people and real life. Decisions made in the courtroom have lasting effects on families and our communities," Koetter said.

Koetter's notable cases involve defendants Billy Joe Harris, known as the Twilight Rapist, Jeffrey Frank Grimsinger and Ronnie Joe Hendrick.

Harris is serving several life sentences and recently lost an appeal of his 2011 Jackson County conviction.

Grimsinger pleaded guilty to murdering Sally Blackwell, a Child Protective Services supervisor, in Victoria County in 2006. Koetter sentenced him to life in prison for the felony murder plus 20 years for aggravated kidnapping, according to earlier reports.

Most recently, Koetter declared a mistrial in the case of Hendrick, who was charged with murdering his girlfriend in 2001. "Cold Justice," a TNT cable television program, aired an episode about the case six days before the trial was set to begin. On Sept. 10, Hendrick accepted a plea deal and was sentenced to 22 years in prison.

Koetter married Dotty Beal nearly 50 years ago. They have two children and five grandchildren.

No one else has filed or announced plans to file for the district judge's position.



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