Mission man pleads guilty to 2015 Palmview murder

Juan Carlos Lara listens to closing arguments at Hidalgo County Courthouse on June 8, 2017, in Edinburg. A jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict as to his fate after that trial. (The Monitor)

EDINBURG — A Mission man pleaded guilty Monday to the 2015 murder of a Palmview man after a 2017 jury failed to reach a unanimous verdict as to his fate.

Juan Carlos Lara, 33, elected to have state District Judge Fernando Mancias determine his punishment, and Mancias sentenced him to 15 years in prison Tuesday on the first-degree murder charge for the death of Jaime Ramos, 24.

Lara is accused of shooting Ramos on the afternoon of Jan. 15, 2015, in the trailer Ramos lived in with his wife and two young children. During the 2017 trial, prosecutors alleged Lara shot Ramos as retribution for a load of marijuana Ramos lost after it was seized at the Falfurrias checkpoint, according to Monitor archives.

The state’s case in the 2017 trial relied heavily upon testimony from Ramos’ wife, the only witness to the shooting, while defense attorneys O. Rene Flores and Regina Richardson pointed to inconsistencies in her recollection of the incident and lack of physical evidence linking their client to the crime.

After the mistrial, the district attorney’s office appealed a decision made by trial judge Robert Garza to grant the defense’s motion to suppress a statement Lara made to Palmview police following his arrest.

Last year, the appeals court sided with the state that the statement should have been allowed to be presented to the jury as evidence.

Had Lara gone to trial for a second time, he could have faced up to life in prison if convicted.

Prosecutors had asked Mancias to sentence Lara to 40 years in prison.

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