Murder trial delayed after state files appeal

EDINBURG — The murder trial of a Mission man was put on hold Thursday after the state filed an appeal to a court’s ruling during the trial.

Hidalgo County Assistant District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez Jr. filed Thursday on behalf of the state an appeal to a court decision that suppressed key evidence in a murder case.

“Criminal District Attorney in and for Hidalgo County, Texas, gives notice of intent and desire of the State of Texas to appeal from the Order rendered June 8, 2017, in this cause, by which Order the Court granted the Defendant’s Motion to Suppress, “the court document reads.

The appeal Rodriguez filed, which will be heard by the 13th Court of Appeals, is connected to the murder case involving Juan Carlos Lara, a Mission man accused of shooting and killing Jaime Ramos, 24, of Palmview, over an alleged drug load lost by Ramos during a seizure.

Lara, who turned himself into authorities about a week after he was implicated in the shooting death, went to trial earlier this month after he pleaded not guilty to the murder charge.

During the trial, which began June 5, the court ruled in Lara’s favor when the state attempted to admit into evidence a statement provided by Lara shortly after he surrendered to authorities.

Lara’s attorney, O. Rene Flores, as part of his defense, argued during trial that officers with Palmview police mishandled Lara’s interrogation, and failed to properly inform him of his rights before he gave a statement.

Flores said that Lara’s statement was inadmissible because officers obtained it even though he was unaware that he had waived his Miranda Rights — the court agreed and the jury did not see the statement during the trial.

Flores said this was just one example of incompetence on the part of the police department, characterizing the department’s officers as lackadaisical in their approach to this investigation, stating during the course of the trial that even after receiving information about two possible shooters — they failed to thoroughly follow up because they already “had their man.”

The state also failed to have admitted into evidence video surveillance that purported to show Lara driving away from the scene of the crime moments after the shooting.

That failed when the state was unable to produce the footage due to a faulty USB drive where Palmview police had stored the footage.

The Court’s decision to disallow that piece of evidence, and the statement worked against the state, represented by Assistant District Attorney Roxanna Salinas, and Nick Moore

Jurors deliberated June 9 for about 8 hours before the court declared a hung jury.

Rodriguez said he disagreed with the court’s decision to keep out Lara’s statement and is confident the court of appeals will rule for the statement to be allowed into evidence.

“With all due respect to the judge’s decision we do feel that statement should be brought in,” Rodriguez said. “We feel the officers did a good job of Mirandizing him. Explaining to him his rights once he was detained.”

Flores said he agreed at the time with the court’s decision and believes the court of appeals will do the same.

“I agree with the trial court’s ruling and I am confident the 13th Court of Appeals will agree as well,” Flores said. “We look forward to the appellate process and getting back to trial to vindicate Mr. Lara.”

The appeal will delay the murder trial for the 31-year-old who was due back in court Monday.