CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — The State of Texas will not pursue the death penalty against Joseph Tejeda or Sandra Vasquez, two suspects in the murder of 21-year-old Breanna Wood, Assistant Attorney General James Haugh said during a hearing Tuesday morning at the Nueces County Courthouse.
Senior Judge Manuel Banales said the two will go to trial in early 2023. That decision came after he heard motions from Tejeda and Vasquez's defense counsel asking that the judge dismiss all charges against their clients. Judge Banales refused.
Here are some of the reasons the defense attorneys cited in their request to have the case dismissed:
- What they called the Corpus Christi Police Department's "failure to complete an investigation."
- The original judge, Jack Pulcher, recused himself from the case last year.
- The recent discovery that the Nueces County District Attorney's Office allowed the victim's mother, Fallon Wood, access to case files and evidence.
- They said Fallon Wood and District Attorney Mark Gonzalez both spoke to media despite being under a gag order in relation to the case.
"When you take all these instances and put them all together this case becomes so tainted that there is no verdict that could be returned by a fact finder that could be trusted, no matter what the verdict is," Vasquez's defense attorney David Klein said. "This case has simply become unreliable and forever tainted."
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In the end, Judge Banales said the concerns defense counsel brought up Tuesday would need to be brought up at the actual trials. He denied the motions to dismiss their trials but did say he found some of the defense team's arguments persuasive.
"It's a matter of concern to this court and I'm sure any other court who would hear these things," Banales said. "We can't have persons not employed or associated with the DA's office going through the DA's case files because that may endanger the case. No DA's office that I know of would ever do that and it has never been done until now -- and that is a matter of great concern."
Banales questioned one item on the defense counsels' list of alleged misconducts -- the fact that Dr. Adel Shaker, former Nueces County Medical Examiner, is currently indicted on multiple felonies.
Banales asked if any of Shaker's indictments were related to the case of Breanna Wood. It was back in 2016 when Breanna Wood was murdered. Her remains were found mutilated inside of a box near an abandoned building in Robstown, Texas.
Shaker was arrested in April 2022 on 15 counts of prohibited practice by a physician, one count of unprofessional or dishonorable conduct by a physician, and one count of failure to delegate general authority.
RELATED: 15 families to file suit against Nueces County over reported negligence at Medical Examiner's Office
Tejeda's defense attorney said she did not know if Shaker's indictments include the Wood case. Banales said she needs to find out and will need to subpoena the Texas Rangers to testify and confirm if that is the case.
'Dismissing this case would be an injustice'
The assistant attorney general pushed back on motions to dismiss the trials.
"In the name of law, we want justice not convictions," Haugh said. "The same goes for this case. We want justice for all parties and their families. Dismissing this case would be an injustice."
The trials are set to begin in 2023. Tejeda's trial is expected to take place in January and Vasquez's in March.
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