Convicted killer Joe Luna seeks partial new trial

Claims mitigating evidence not revealed during trial

SAN ANTONIO – Details of Joe Luna's home life -- including drug use and criminal activity by relatives -- were never brought out during the punishment phase of his capital murder trial in 2006.

That is what Luna's mother, Josie Luna, told Judge Bert Richardson Friday during a hearing in which Luna's lawyer's have petitioned for a new punishment phase of his trial.

In 2006, Luna pleaded guilty to the murder of Michael Andrade, 21. Luna, who was 26 at the time, admitted breaking into Andrade's apartment through the attic.

He said he strangled Andrade with a bed sheet and then set the apartment on fire.

During Friday's hearing, Josie Luna said that she did not properly discipline her son when he was growing up.

"He never had that type of ... positive guidance that every child needs," Luna told District Judge Bert Richardson.

She said that drug use and criminal activity by relatives had a negative impact on her son.

Dr. Jack Ferrell, a clinical psychologist, validated the woman's testimony.

"He was a lost boy," Ferrell testified. "I think he was a disturbed youth."

The jury in Luna's trial never heard the testimony that Luna's lawyer, Michael Gross, offered during Friday's hearing.

Luna's mother blames that on her son's trial attorney.

"I said I wanted to testify for the punishment phase but he said it wouldn't do any good," Luna testified, as she insisted her son had ineffective legal counsel.

Richardson will make a recommendation to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals as the next step in Luna's appeals process.

The appeals court will review the recommendation and the evidence presented during Friday's hearing.

The court will then decide whether the Luna is granted a new trial in the punishment phase of his trial.

That decision likely will not be made until early 2013.

About the Author:

Paul Venema is a courthouse reporter for KSAT with more than 25 years experience in the role.