San Antonio lawyer in murder, dismemberment case may testify
A prosecutor arguing a murder case may find himself on the stand Thursday after he and other members of the prosecution team questioned a defense witness privately, without an attorney present and without telling the defense.
Lisa Treviño, 35, was subpoenaed by defense attorney Albert M. Gutierrez Jr., representing her cousin, Gabriel Moreno, who is being retried in the 2014 retaliation killing of Jose Luis Menchaca, 35. Menchaca was beaten with aluminum baseball bats, suffocated and dismembered. Parts of his body were burned on a backyard barbecue pit.
The state is continuing to present evidence and witnesses in Moreno’s retrial, but Treviño, who was expected to testify for the defense, showed up early Wednesday.
When she and her family arrived in the 379th state District Court, Gutierrez and second chair defense attorney Kelly Feicht were not there. So when Treviño approached the prosecution table, Bexar County assistant district attorney Matthew Ludowig, two other prosecutors, a victim advocate and a DA’s Office investigator took Treviño to a conference room to question her — without her family or an attorney — and told her that she would not be charged with a crime if she told the truth, Ludowig later told the judge.
When Gutierrez became aware of what happened, he told Judge Ron Rangel, who then asked Treviño if she wanted an attorney. When she said yes, Rangel appointed Andrew Preece to represent her.
Ludowig called Treviño to testify Wednesday afternoon and after she introduced herself to the jury, she said, “On the advice of my attorney, I invoke my right to remain silent.”
When Ludowig asked her if she watched Dominguez’s children in the bedroom while Menchaca was being attacked, she responded, “I plead the Fifth.”
From then on, with each question Ludowig asked Treviño regarding what she saw or heard the day of Menchaca’s death, she invoked her constitutional right not to incriminate herself.
As all of this was unfolding, Rangel became visibly upset, called a recess and had the jury escorted out.
“Did they tell you they were going to do this?” Rangel asked Gutierrez.
“I was told after,” he replied.
“And you thought it was OK to do that?” Rangel asked Ludowig, who said he initially didn’t know why Treviño was there, but when she approached the prosecutors’ table and showed them her subpoena, he decided to question her.
Prosecutors said Treviño has said two different things about the day Menchaca was killed. They say she told police in an interview after the death that she was at the house that day but left before the attack. But Ludowig said she told prosecutors during their interview Wednesday that she was in the bedroom when the assault took place.
Gutierrez told Rangel he intends to call Ludowig, possibly as early as Thursday, to testify about what was discussed when he interviewed Treviño.
The trial is expected to resume Thursday morning with Trevino’s videotaped police interview, which the jury started to see before Rangel recessed Wednesday.
A previous jury deliberated Moreno’s case for four days in March before Judge Ron Rangel declared a mistrial after they became deadlocked.
Moreno, 36, is the second of three co-defendants to go to trial in the case. His cousin, Daniel Moreno Lopez, 32, was convicted earlier this year and sentenced in November to life in prison. Lopez’s then-girlfriend, Candie Dominguez, 39, who also is Menchaca’s cousin, is awaiting trial.
Testimony established that Menchaca was killed at the home Lopez shared with Dominguez in the 400 block of Hillwood Drive on the North Side, while Dominguez’s children were in another room in the home.
Elizabeth Zavala is a courts and crime reporter in the San Antonio and Bexar County area. Read her on our free site, mySA.com, and on our subscriber site, ExpressNews.com. | email@example.com | Twitter: @elizabeth2863