Jurors hear testimony in murder trial

Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.

The trial for two men charged with killing a Victoria man a year ago began Tuesday morning.

Victoria residents David Francisco Barron, 26, and Marcus Pena, 24, are charged with murder in the 2009 death of Jason "Big J" Garcia, 24.

The two also face charges of engagement in organized criminal activity and capital murder.

Both men pleaded not guilty to all three counts.

The state, which is represented by District Attorney Steve Tyler and Eli Garza, assistant district attorney, is not seeking the death penalty.

During the trial, jurors heard details about the trail of events that led up to Garcia being found dead and beaten in the 2300 block of South Laurent Street on Aug. 23, 2009.

After attending a quinceañera earlier in the day, Garcia went to Club Caliente.

Andy "Lunatic" Higdon, a witness in the case, who appeared in court under subpoena, testified he ran into Garcia while partying at the club.

Higdon said Garcia introduced him to some of his friends, who Higdon's girlfriend, Carina Cortina, later identified as Barron and Pena.

A fight ensued after Barron and Pena accused Higdon of not getting along with one of their other friends, according to Higdon.

"It was a fight motivated by gang alliances," said Tyler, who said Barron and Pena were members of the Mexican Mafia gang.

Later that evening, Tyler said Garcia was kicked and beaten to death by Barron and Pena for refusing to jump in earlier to help fight Higdon and for refusing to give up Higdon's contact information.

"The last blow, when there was no more grunting or screams, was described by Rolando Pena as having a strange sound," said Tyler.

Tyler was referring to Rolando Pena Jr., 25, who along with Antonio Castillo Jr., were also arrested in late August 2009 and charged with Garcia's death.

However, both Castillo and Rolando Pena received plea deals in exchange for their testimonies.

Castillo, whose age is unknown, received 20 years while Rolando Pena received 40 years.

Tyler said after the fight with Garcia, the group took Garcia's cellular telephone, necklace, watch and his wallet and its contents and fled the area.

They were caught by law enforcement while en route to Laredo.

Dr. Leisha E. Wood, with the Travis County Medical Examiner's Office, also testified during the trial and commented on Garcia's condition upon arrival at her office for an autopsy.

"He had a lot of blood covering his face," said Wood, who testified Garcia's cause of death was "multiple blunt forces and neck injuries."

She also said he suffered a broken nose.

The state showed jurors pictures of the deceased, which revealed that his face and upper body were covered with cuts and abrasions.

However, Jim Beeler, Marcus Pena's attorney, argued the cocaine and weed that was found in Garcia's system mixed with the large amount of alcohol he had consumed throughout the day created uncertainty about the exact cause of death.

Defense attorney Brent Dornburg is representing Barron.

The case will resume Wednesday at 9 a.m. in Judge Robert Cheshire's courtroom.



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