Naiya Villegas Deserves Justice


OPINION—Isidro Delacruz is charged with murdering a 5-year-old girl and all this week 14 of his peers have sat in a courtroom barely 10 feet away watching him react to evidence presented which may very well send him to his death.

District Attorney Allison Palmer and her staff and defense attorneys William Boyles and Robert Cowie carefully chose those 14 people out of 328 potential jurors over six weeks. Cowie and Boyles are members of the Regional Public Defender for Capital Cases Office in Lubbock. Cowie and Boyles are court-appointed because Delacruz can’t afford an attorney and is guaranteed representation by the U.S. Constitution.

Courtroom D in the Tom Green County Courthouse is the only courtroom on the first floor. It is small and cramped for the attorneys, the defendant, and the gallery, but there is sufficient room for the jurors and the judge. There are four pews, or benches, for spectators on either side of the center isle that can seat approximately 50 people.

In one of over 100 motions by the defense attorneys before the capital murder case began, the 27-year-old Delacruz is allowed to wear civilian clothing. He has been jailed since his arrest on September 2, 2014 and his daily attire would be an orange jail jumpsuit otherwise. Not only is Delacruz allowed to wear civilian clothing, but the two jailers who take him to court and remain there with him the entire time also are not in uniform, they are in street clothes, as ordered by the judge who agreed with a pre-trial request of the defense team. And Delacruz is not handcuffed. Normally, defendants who are in jail are handcuffed while they are in the courtroom.

But this is a capital murder case. It was a brutal, horrible murder. The evidence is gruesome and Isidro Delacruz is facing the death penalty. The trial is expected to take three weeks and this is the end of week one. The jurors have had a chance to get to know each other and have changed seats. The nine women and five men are allowed to sit wherever they want in the jury box according to District Judge Ben Woodward. The soft-spoken man has an easygoing demeanor that allows him to preside over the proceedings. The demeanor of Judge Woodward puts everyone in the courtroom to be at ease while the disturbing and upsetting evidence is presented. Woodward instructed jurors not to talk about the case among themselves or with their families and not to read or watch news accounts of the trial.

The court reporter has sat quietly taking down each word and taking charge of all the physical evidence presented. At times she has had to ask an attorney or a witness to speak up or repeat what they said because the sound system isn’t the greatest. One judge in a previous case called the court reporter the most important person in the room.

It appears that Isidro Delacruz will get a fair trial in Tom Green County. The evidence presented will determine the verdict and punishment. Naiya Villegas and her family deserve justice. We will do our best to report the case fairly and accurately. You deserve that from us.

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