Deliberations in cocaine trial to continue Thursday

McALLEN — Jurors resume their deliberations Thursday after about six hours of considering the facts of the case Wednesday.

Jurors will continue to look over the five day’s worth of evidence and testimony entered by the government in the trial of two police officers accused of working together to steal cocaine.

The trial is connected to an Aug. 27, 2016, seizure of 40 bricks of cocaine and pits the government against Salvador Hernandez, a three-year law enforcement veteran for San Juan police, and Richard Leon Castillo, a now-former officer of the same department who was also employed for about three years. The government had accused of Castillo of conspiring to possess and distribute more than 500 grams of cocaine.

The trial is the second involving the two men, who were acquitted by jurors of drug conspiracy charges in December 2017, but found Castillo guilty of lying to federal agents.

The government alleges the two men, with Border Patrol agents searching around them, took the opportunity to grab three bundles of cocaine at the site of the crash, and did so because the bundles had not been accounted for moments after law enforcement arrived on the scene.

Prosecutors based its case on body camera footage from both officers, interviews conducted with Drug Enforcement Administration agents, and lack of procedural adherence during the search by Hernandez, and Castillo’s “misstatements,” to DEA agents.

Attorneys for the officers say the government’s evidence is limited to very brief video footage that shows the two men speaking but not conspiring to steal cocaine, and despite their concession that the evidence could have been handled better by Hernandez, they argue this isn’t enough to prove a conspiracy between the two.

On Tuesday, after the government called its 20th witness to the stand and rested following six hours of testimony, the defense called its only witness — San Juan police Sgt. Rolando Garcia, the supervisor who accompanied the officers at the orchard.

But Garcia was only asked about where he was when the two men were at the shed within the orchard.

During the course of the five-day trial, the government has called several law enforcement officers from different agencies, including Border Patrol, DEA, San Juan police and the Texas Department of Public Safety, to name a few.

U.S. District Judge Micaela Alvarez recessed jurors just before 5:30 p.m. Wednesday.

They began deliberating at about 10 a.m., after the group heard closing arguments from both the government and defense counsel.