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Death Penalty at issue

September 11, 2018

As jury selection begins today in the capital murder trial of a man accused of gunning down an off-duty Border Patrol agent four years ago, there is a possibility the suspect may not face the death penalty.

Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo, 44, is accused of capital murder for the shooting death of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr., of Kingsville, and attempted capital murder for the shooting of the man’s father, Javier Vega Sr., of La Feria, in August 2014.

Hernandez-Vallejo, of Weslaco, who currently faces the death penalty, has pleaded not guilty. A jury convicted his co-defendant, Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval, of La Villa, in May and he was subsequently sentenced to death.

Hernandez-Vallejo’s defense team, through consultation with an expert, believes the man has an intellectual disability, which would make him ineligible for the death penalty.

“Mr. Hernandez Vallejo is intellectually disabled and therefore ineligible for the death penalty,” a court motion states.

The defense expert diagnosed the man with a mild intellectual disability and mild cognitive impairment.

The Willacy County District Attorney’s Office has retained its own expert to make an opinion on whether Hernandez-Vallejo is intellectually disabled, but that expert was not able to make a determination by the court’s deadline, which was Monday.

Willacy County Assistant District Attorney Charles “Chuck” Mattingly said during a pre-trial hearing where he asked for a continuance that the state’s expert needed 60 more days to review the findings made by the defense expert. However, 197th state District Judge Migdalia Lopez declined to grant a continuance, but did allow Mattingly’s expert 60 more days to make a determination.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com

A more complete version of this story is available at www.myBrownsvilleHerald.com

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