Get to know Judge Ron Rangel; Plus, will charges be dropped against man accused of killing Trinity U. cheerleader?

KSAT’s Open Court newsletter

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With a widely watched capital trial complete, there is another delay for in-person jury trials in Bexar County.

Administrative Judge Ron Rangel has ordered all in-person jury trials be halted for the second time due to the rise in COVID-19 cases.

Rangel, who sets operating procedures for the local court system as well as presides over trials, issued the latest order on Aug. 4 and jury trials that had already begun were allowed to continue until a verdict was reached.

Rangel said he made the decision “after careful deliberation and consultation with the local health authority.”

As for how long it will be in effect, Rangel said he will monitor it week-to-week, but hopes he can lift by the end of September.

Hearings will still be taking place but the court’s mask mandate also remains in effect.

The mandate does not violate Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s executive order due to a ruling from the Texas Supreme Court.


The Docket:

Here’s a look at trials and court proceedings we can expect in the coming weeks. These dates are subject to change and be reset.

  • Mark Howerton: charged with the murder of Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi -- hearing on Sept. 2 (more on this hearing in closing arguments)
  • Damion Campbell: charged with the murder of a transgender woman at a Northwest Side hair salon -- hearing on Sept. 10
  • Juan David Ortiz: A former Border Patrol agent charged in the murders of four women in Webb Co. -- status hearing on Sept. 9

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Get to know:

Judge Ron Rangel

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The name is most likely familiar: Judge Ron Rangel is often cited in news coverage as both the Administrative Judge for Bexar County and the presiding judge over the 379th Criminal District Court

Most recently, Judge Rangel presided over the capital trial of Otis McKane.

Hailing from Portland, Texas, Rangel has called San Antonio home since coming here for college when he was 20.

He earned his undergrad degree at St. Mary’s University in history with the mindset of becoming a college professor but later his father convinced him to become a lawyer.

“He thought being a lawyer could make a difference in society,” Rangel said.

Not thinking he would get in, Rangel applied to St. Mary’s Law School and was surprised when he was accepted.

After law school, he was a felony prosecutor, then a criminal defense attorney and then he ran for judge.

He’s been a Bexar County judge for more than 12 years and the administrative judge for six years. He was elected as the administrative judge by 27 district court judges.

The administrative judge role includes many duties including budgets, supervise the expeditious movement of court caseloads as well as keeping the courts safe during COVID, and issuing safety guidelines.

When he’s not busy in the courtroom, Rangel tells KSAT that he enjoys the outdoors and reading.

He’s also is getting to do what he always wanted to do... Rangel is currently teaching classes at UTSA.


Legal Glossary:

There are often terms used in a courtroom that sound more like legal jargon than natural language. Even after years of covering court proceedings, I sometimes have to look up words to refresh my memory or make sure I fully understand them. In each newsletter, I include a different word or phrase so we can build our knowledge and understanding of the courtroom together.

Demonstrative Evidence: We heard this term a few times during the McKane trial. This refers to physical objects, graphs, pictures, blow-ups of documents, models and other devices that are intended to clarify the facts for the judge and jury.

Many of these are not supposed to be actual evidence but helps in the understanding of presented evidence in the jurors’ memories. A judge ultimately decides whether this type of evidence will be helpful or could sway a jury in a way that will prevent them from deciding an issue impartially and then rule on whether to allow it.


Closing Arguments:

In the docket, I listed a hearing for Mark Howerton. To refresh your memory: in 2019 Howerton stood trial for the 2017 murder of Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi. Those proceedings ended in a mistrial when the jury couldn’t decide on a verdict.

Now the retrial may not happen if the defense gets its way. Earlier this month, Howerton’s attorney filed a writ of habeas corpus “seeking relief from double jeopardy.” This means they want to bar the retrial, citing prosecutor misconduct and double jeopardy.

(ksat)

On Sept. 2, 144th Criminal District Court Judge Michael Mery is expected to rule whether the retrial will move forward or not.

Whether the hearing takes place in-person or over Zoom, I will be present to see what happens next and keep you in the loop.

Thanks so much for reading,

Erica Hernandez, KSAT 12 Courts Reporter


Court Stories:


About the Author:

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with more than 12 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter.