SAN ANTONIO – A jury sentenced Miguel Martinez, 30, to life in prison Monday for fatally shooting a UTSA graduate student during a botched heroin deal.
It was the maximum sentence allowed for Martinez, who killed Laura Carter, 33, on Jan. 11, 2015.
For Carter's family, it was the end of a 4 1/2-year wait.
“This part is over, but nothing closes in the heart,” said J’ann Rodriguez-Carter, Carter’s mother, following the verdict. “Nothing closes in the mind.”
Prosecutors said Martinez lured Carter to a Southeast Side neighborhood for what she thought was a meeting to set up a drug-dealing partnership.
Prior to the meeting, Martinez had convinced Carter to withdraw $7,000 from her college savings fund to invest in the "business," said prosecutor Jason Goss.
Martinez shot Carter five times in the head while she sat in her parked car, Goss said.
“Coward, cunning and crafty,” Goss said about Martinez during closing arguments in the punishment phase of the trial. “Think about the planning that was involved in killing her — it’s diabolical.”
Goss insisted that life in prison was the only appropriate sentence.
But defense attorney Joel Perez argued that the investigation into the slaying "was shoddy and compromised from the very beginning. They didn't go search his house to check if the $7,000 was there. And there were no fingerprints taken from her car and there was no DNA evidence."
Perez asked the jury for compassion.
"Whatever sentence you give him, maybe allow his the chance to come home, to rehabilitate in prison," Perez said.
This was Martinez's second trial for Carter's murder. His first trial ended in a mistrial in 2017 and generated a firestorm of controversy. The trial led to a feud between Nicholas "Nico" LaHood, who was the Bexar County district attorney at the time, and Martinez's attorney, Joe Gonzales.
Gonzales has since been elected district attorney, defeating LaHood in the 2018 March Democratic Primary and then defeating his Republican opponent, Tylden Shaeffer, in the November 2018 general election.
Carter's family expressed relief that their ordeal was over.
“For our family's safety and for the public’s safety, we could have no more than we received today. And for this I am grateful," Rodriguez-Carter said.
The jury took just over three hours Friday to find Martinez guilty of the crime.
Martinez must serve 30 years in prison, day-for-day, before he is eligible for parole.