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After a two-month delay, jury trials are now underway again. Judges wasted no time getting started and immediately picked jury panels to hear cases.
This fall and into the winter expect the courts to be very busy as they try to minimize the massive backlog that built up during the coronavirus pandemic.
This week, two murder trials took place. The Louis Benevento trial ended Wednesday with a guilty verdict and a 15-year sentence for Benevento. The Miguel Gutierrez trial is still ongoing, he’s charged with the 2017 murder of an 11-month-old boy.
There are several high-profile cases that could take place before the year is up, including the murder trial of Andre McDonald, accused of killing his wife Andreen McDonald in 2019. Another is the possible retrial for Mark Howerton, who is accused of the 2017 murder of Trinity University cheerleader Cayley Mandadi.
We will continue to keep track of all upcoming hearings, sentencings and cases as the weeks go by.
Here’s a look at trials and court proceedings we can expect in the coming weeks. These dates are subject to change and could be reset.
Roy Hernandez: Hernandez is charged with the 1999 murder of his wife. He wasn’t arrested for her murder until 2017. His trial was expected to start earlier this summer but has been reset to start Nov. 8.
Andre McDonald: McDonald is charged with the 2019 murder of his wife after a four-month search for her led to her remains being found on private property in north Bexar County. As of right now, this trial is expected to start on Nov. 8. (more about court date in closing arguments.)
Anton Jamail-Harris: Also known as the so-called Medical Center Rapist, Harris returns to court for another hearing but this could be reset if the McDonald trial begins, as their cases are in the same court. This is also scheduled for Nov. 8.
Get to know:
Judge Alfredo Ximenez
Born and raised in San Antonio County Court 4 Judge Alfredo Ximenez is a first-term judge.
After graduating from St. Mary’s Law School, he worked as a private practice criminal defense attorney for 17 years.
In his three years as a judge, he said he takes great pride in making a difference in people’s lives.
“Helping individuals through a difficult time in their lives while letting them know there’s an opportunity to make things right,” Ximenez told KSAT. “I make it a point to never forget where I came from and I want people to see I’m no different from them and will always respect you no matter what you’re accused of.”
When not in the courtroom, Ximenez said he enjoys spending time with his family, welding/building barbecue pits, cooking and hunting.
And if you want to grab him a breakfast taco, his go-to is a nopalitos with egg from Las Tapatias de Jalisco.
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.
First-Degree Felony: In Texas, this is the second most serious offense, or the level of charge that carries the second-highest penalty. These felonies are crimes such as murder, attempted capital murder, aggravated kidnapping, aggravated robbery and aggravated sexual assault. If found guilty of this crime, the sentence is anywhere from 5 to 99 years or life in prison. The only charge higher than a first-degree felony in Texas is a capital charge, which can be punished by death.
The Andre McDonald trial is the next big trial we will be covering from gavel to gavel on KSAT.com. As of right now, it is expected to begin on Nov. 8 but a pretrial hearing is set for Nov. 5 and a continuance could be asked for.
A continuance is asking the judge for a reset of the trial date because whichever side asking for it is not ready to proceed. I will be present at that hearing to make sure we — and you — have all the up-to-date information regarding this trial.
Thanks so much for reading,
Erica Hernandez, KSAT 12 Courts Reporter