Testimony continues in murder trial

BROWNSVILLE — Testimony resumed yesterday in the capital murder trial of former U.S. Border Patrol agent Joel Luna and his brother Eduardo, and at issue was what was on the cell phones of the brothers.

Defense Attorneys Carlos A. Garcia and Gabriela Garcia continued questioning Cameron County intelligence analyst Marla Flores Monday, regarding text and phone messages she extracted from the cell phones belonging to the Lunas.

The two brothers, along with two other defendants, are charged with causing the death of Jose Francisco Palacios Paz, as well as drug trafficking allegations.

Carlos Garcia presented two thick sheaves of phone record printouts to Flores, saying “Over the course of this case, the state has alluded that there was some sort of a conspiracy going on between my client and his brothers and others.

Rather than cherry picking one, let’s just look at all of them, so the jury can decide what’s relevant and what’s not. That’s for them to decide.”

Carlos Garcia noted that of the phone calls between the two brothers both one week prior and one week after the alleged murder, there were no sudden spikes in calls between them. He concluded by adding “And there’s no evidence as to what was said in these conversations.”

Gabriela Garcia, Eduardo’s attorney, got Flores to acquiesce that just because someone’s deleting phone messages doesn’t necessarily mean they’re hiding anything; she also inferred that the phone records requested by the state were too narrow in scope, and should have included a longer period of examination.

Texas Ranger Cody Langford, who executed the search on Joel Luna’s home, took the stand, and through his testimony the contents of the ledger found in the safe during that search were revealed. They showed columns of drug and dollar amounts, and individuals who owed certain amounts of money, as well as amounts to be paid.

Carlos Garcia then proffered 152 pictures to Langford, asking if they were all the photos offered into evidence; Langford said yes, but then Garcia alleged that Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Gus Garza had a photo that had not been submitted. The picture was what was referred to as a “trophy picture” of various law enforcement agents posing with the contents of the safe on display in his office that was not entered into evidence.

Langford testified he had not seen the photo in Garza’s office.

Carlos Garcia, Joel’s attorney, also asked “Who travelled to Hebbronville to serve Joel with the arrest warrant for possession of a controlled substance?” Langford responded several law enforcement officers and Garza. Garcia then asserted that Langford’s report omitted the fact that Garza was present during the arrest.

Fernando Luna took the stand again to testify against his two younger brothers, Joel and Eduardo. He revealed Eduardo duped an unknown party out of $250,000 for fake grenades that he helped create.

Despite this testimony, Garcia pressed Fernando to admit that “You know nothing about Joel being involved in the murder or drug trafficking or any plans thereof?” Fernando’s response was no.

At one point, Garza asked Fernando if Palacio Paz had to die, to which he replied, “They wanted him out of the tire shop, but I didn’t know it was going to go to that extreme.”

The trial resumes today at 9 a.m.