Change of venue: Murder case moves to Brownsville, claims media coverage tainting jury pool

RAYMONDVILLE — A Mexican national charged with the capital murder of an off-duty U.S. Border Patrol agent requested his trial be moved out of Willacy County.

District Clerk Gilbert Lozano said he believed District Attorney Bernard Ammerman requested Gustavo Tijerina-Sandoval’s trial be moved.

But court documents show Tijerina-Sandoval requested the change of venue, claiming media coverage tainted potential jurors in Willacy and Cameron counties.

Ammerman argued the court should deny Tijerina-Sandoval’s request.

But state District Judge Migdalia Lopez granted Tijerina-Sandoval’s request, ordering the trial be moved to the 197th District Court in Brownsville.

Tijerina-Sandoval and Ismael Hernandez-Vallejo are charged with capital murder and attempted capital murder in the Aug. 3, 2014, shootings of Border Patrol Agent Javier Vega Jr., 36, and his father Javier Vega Sr.

According to court records, Ammerman wrote Tijerina-Sandoval presented two affidavits stating “extensive media coverage” tainted the potential jury pool in Willacy County.

“However, the defendant’s affidavits fail to demonstrate that there exists a pervasive and prejudicial atmosphere against the defendant,” Ammerman wrote. “The defendant’s affidavits fail to provide any evidence that the residents of Willacy County have already formed an opinion as to (the) defendant’s guilt.”

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