Appeals court upholds conviction for 2005 murder

BROWNSVILLE — The Texas 13th Court of Appeals has upheld the conviction of a Brownsville man found guilty of stabbing a friend in the neck with an ice pick.

Ernesto Berlanga, 36, was sentenced to life in prison stemming from the murder that occurred Aug. 4, 2005, in Cameron Park.

Authorities said that Berlanga and Patricia Sandra Salas were drinking with a mutual friend at a home on Avenida Eduardo when the two started to argue and fight.

Berlanga grabbed an ice pick and stabbed Salas in the neck before fleeing the scene, according to court records.

He was found a few blocks away and charged with murder when Salas died one day later after being taken off life support.

Berlanga had sought an appeal, claiming insufficient evidence to convict him and that he was denied his constitutional right for a speedy trial. Berlanga was arrested in August 2005, and his trial was held in August 2011.

According to the court documents, the delay was due to waiting for DNA results, one of the witnesses giving birth and that Berlanga did not timely assert his right to a speedy trial.

The court handed down its opinion Thursday. It its ruling, the court said it affirmed the trial court’s judgment.

Berlanga is serving a life sentence at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas.