Jury in Luna trial yet to reach a verdict

BROWNSVILLE — After two days of deliberation, a Cameron County jury has yet to reach a verdict in the capital murder trial of a former U.S. Border Patrol agent and his brother accused of participating in the beheading of a Honduran immigrant.

The jury deliberated nearly eight hours yesterday and several hours on Friday in the trial of former Border Patrol agent Joel Luna and his brother Eduardo.

Deliberations will resume this morning.

Early Monday morning, jurors asked to review several different sections of trial transcripts, among them Fernando Luna’s testimony about phone calls and texts on March 9 and March 10, 2015.

The phone calls and text were to and from himself and his youngest brother, Eduardo Luna, on the date that the victim, Francisco Palacios Paz, was murdered, decapitated, and dumped in the waters off South Padre Island.

Fernando Luna, the eldest of the three Luna brothers, was originally charged with capital murder, murder and two counts of engaging in criminal activity along with his brothers Joel and Eduardo and two other men.

But Fernando negotiated a plea with the state for 10 years’ probation or a three-year sentence in exchange for his testimony against his brothers.

The jury returned to the courtroom three separate times to hear the court reporter read back trial transcripts.

The first regarded why Fernando erased messages between himself and Eduardo, with Fernando having testified “To not damage him (Joel), to not hurt him because he had a good job and we had done something wrong.”

Also of interest to the jury was specifically when Joel confronted Fernando about what happened to Palacios Paz.

Testimony indicated that Palacios Paz was killed because he was going to inform authorities about the Luna brothers’ illicit drug, weapon and money smuggling to and from Mexico and the U.S.

The jury reviewed testimony of Carlos Garcia, Joel’s attorney, questioning Fernando, where he pinned Fernando down, asking, “Before March of 2015, you had no conversations with Joel about drug trafficking, no conversations with Joel about the killing of Frankie, (Paz) no conversations with Joel about Eduardo or anybody else’s intent to kill Frankie (Paz)?” to all of which Fernando answered “No.”

The jury also reviewed testimony as to whether there were other cell phones used besides the ones seized by authorities.

All of the reviewed trial testimony concerned Joel, with no questions asked about Eduardo.

The jurors also asked about clarifications on counts two and three, regarding engaging in organized criminal activity.