Judge denies ex-Bexar County constable Michelle Barrientes Vela new trial

Attorneys argued Barrientes Vela was entitled to new trial due to flubbed testimony from Texas Ranger, sleeping, coughing jurors

SAN ANTONIO – A judge on Wednesday evening denied a motion for a new trial for disgraced ex-Bexar County constable Michelle Barrientes Vela.

Attorneys for Barrientes Vela argued in court on Wednesday morning that she was entitled to a new trial following flubbed testimony from a Texas Ranger and jurors sleeping or coughing during key moments of last year’s proceedings.

Barrientes Vela was sentenced to five years probation and 90 days in jail in early January, months after being convicted of tampering with security payment logs at a West Side park.

Wednesday’s hearing, which lasted slightly over an hour, was granted by Judge Velia Meza after attorneys for Barrientes Vela filed a formal motion for a new trial in early February.

Several hours after the hearing, Meza denied the motion.

Defense attorney Jasmin Olguin testifies on March 8, 2023. (KSAT)

The testimony of defense attorney Jasmin Olguin focused on observations she made in the courtroom during Barrientes Vela’s trial.

Olguin testified that jurors were “taken aback” when Texas Ranger Bradley Freeman said on the witness stand in late August that he believed Barrientes Vela had committed official oppression.

Although the former constable faced multiple counts of official oppression, they were not included in the evidence portion of her felony tampering with records trial and were off-limits for attorneys and witnesses to discuss, per an order from Meza.

Freeman’s utterance of the phrase nearly caused Meza to declare a mistrial and eventually led her late last year to hold Freeman in contempt of court.

“The jury was 100% paying attention and were shocked,” Olguin testified.

Freeman’s contempt case is scheduled to be back in court late this month and his misstep is likely to play a key role in Barrientes Vela’s appeal, should she not be granted a new trial.

Meza took issue with additional testimony from Olguin that focused on accusations that one juror’s persistent cough made it difficult for fellow jurors to hear important evidence.

The judge pointed out that defense attorneys for Barrientes Vela failed to object to the coughing during the trial.

After Olguin leveled a separate allegation that a different juror was sleeping on and off throughout the trial, Meza again interrupted her and asked how she knew the person was actually asleep.

An attorney for Barrientes Vela also argued that a large number of armed Bexar County District Attorney’s Office investigators seated in the gallery during the trial gave off the false impression that the ex-constable was a dangerous defendant.

The deadline for Meza to issue her ruling was March 20. She could have also allowed the motion to expire without issuing a ruling.

About the Authors

Emmy-award winning reporter Dillon Collier joined KSAT Investigates in September 2016. Dillon's investigative stories air weeknights on the Nightbeat and on the Six O'Clock News. Dillon is a two-time Houston Press Club Journalist of the Year and a Texas Associated Press Broadcasters Reporter of the Year.

Joshua Saunders is an Emmy award-winning photographer/editor who has worked in the San Antonio market for the past 20 years. Joshua works in the Defenders unit, covering crime and corruption throughout the city.

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