AP NEWS

Police report leads to mistrial in woman accused of killing uncle

April 10, 2019

A murder trial abruptly ended in a mistrial Tuesday afternoon over questions about how and why a significant sentence was removed from a police report in the case of a woman who has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.

The mistrial followed several hours of testimony in the case of 20-year-old Paola Michael Martinez, who is accused of stabbing her uncle, Alejandro Perez Ramirez, 53, once through the heart on Jan. 24, 2017.

But it was testimony from Brownsville Police Department Officer Jesus Martin Luna Sr. that placed the entire case on hold.

At issue was a copy of a police report Luna had written on the day of the murder that he printed out at the Brownsville Police Department Tuesday morning to use during his testimony.

The problem? That report was missing a sentence that was included in the same report that the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office had in its file and previously turned over to Martinez’s attorney, Nat C. Perez.

The sentence missing in the report Luna printed out Tuesday morning described how Martinez was laughing in a sinister manner when he encountered her in Chachalaca Park after responding for a welfare concern.

The missing sentence also contradicted his earlier testimony that when he initially came into contact with Martinez in the park, he described her as laughing, but nothing in her demeanor led him to believe anything was outside of the ordinary.

“She was calm, cold, collective, I mean, nothing out of the ordinary,” Luna said.

While responding to questions from the DA’s Office, Luna referred to the report with the missing sentence.

Perez and his co-counsel, Gabriela Martinez, discovered the inconsistency on cross examination when Perez asked Luna to see the copy he used in his testimony.

After the discovery, 357th state District Judge Juan A. Magallanes excused the jury and instructed Cameron County Assistant District Attorneys Jose Arreola, Anthony Cornejo and Art Villarreal to confer with District Attorney Luis V. Saenz to find out what happened.

“This is urgent. This is not right,” Magallanes said.

During questioning about the inconsistency, Luna then remembered writing the sentence that was missing from the report and said a detective told him to remove it from the report because it didn’t “sound good.”

Luna could not explain how the report he printed out was different than the report in the Cameron County District Attorneys Office’s case file.

Before excusing the jury, Magallanes said Luna’s testimony signaled to him that the jury was not getting the truth.

“There are some serious issues here,” Magallanes said.

The judge said because of those issues, it would be impossible for Martinez to have a fair trial.

“We need to figure out where the truth lies,” Magallanes said, before instructing Arreola to dig into what happened and describing Luna’s testimony as perjury.

Magallanes also suggested Luna was not being truthful when he said he could not remember which detective instructed him to alter the report.

Arreola told Magallanes that Saenz would schedule a meeting with Brownsville Police Department Chief Felix Sauceda, who officially started in that capacity last Monday.

After the hearing, Perez, the defense attorney, said Luna’s removal of the sentence describing how he observed her laughing in a sinister manner was tantamount to tampering with government records and obstruction of justice.

“Those officers may have anticipated the insanity claim and were trying to hide exculpatory evidence,” Perez said.

The attorney referenced the fact that Tuesday morning the Brownsville Police Department turned over photos of Martinez’s bedroom that showed she had been writing on her walls — photos he didn’t even have a chance to see yet.

Perez said he also planned to try to meet with Sauceda.

“There needs to be an investigation,” Perez said.

As for Martinez, two psychiatrists, including one of the Cameron County District Attorney’s experts, Dr. Tomas A. Gonzalez, have issued reports stating that she did not know right from wrong when she killed her uncle and was suffering psychosis.

When Gonzalez interviewed Martinez, she accused her uncle of raping her and physically abusing her on multiple occasions over a two-year period. After the second alleged rape, Martinez told the psychiatrist that she began to experience hallucinations.

“She stated it was a deep voice and it said to her, ‘I am sent by the dark one.’ She added she also saw a ‘vision of the voice that would talk to me wearing a white suit with a black tie,’” Gonzalez wrote in the most recent report.

mreagan@brownsvilleherald.com