Man gets 8 years for South Texas cartel slaying

Zane Sparling

 

EDINBURG — A 20-year-old man was sentenced to eight years in prison in the South Texas slaying of a man who hired him to move a drug load for the Gulf Cartel.

The Monitor in McAllen Juan Carlos Morin was sentenced this week in Hidalgo County Auxiliary Court in the 2012 slaying of Marco Antonio Reyes Moreno. Morin pleaded guilty to the murder in April.

Vicente Espinoza, who pleaded guilty to murder in February in the slaying, was sentenced to 25 years.

Officials said the two were hired by Reyes Moreno to move methamphetamine from the Rio Grande Valley to Corpus Christi for the Gulf Cartel. But they kept the drugs instead.

Reyes Moreno was killed after telling them to return the drugs, pay for them or prove they were seized.

New rail hub opens along New Mexico border

SANTA TERESA, N.M. — A sprawling, $400 million railroad hub opened Wednesday in southern New Mexico with the promise of transforming the border area into an international industrial trade zone.

The hub is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S. and is expected to spur development on both sides of the border with Mexico. Tax breaks and other factors have prompted more than 50 companies to move to the area in recent years.

Because the area has been designated a foreign trade zone, freight from overseas can be loaded directly onto trains from West Coast ports for processing and shipment to Mexican factories and for distribution by rail across the U.S.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez and her Mexican counterpart Cesar Duarte Jaquez, governor of Chihuahua, Mexico, were among the officials on hand for the ceremony that opened the Union Pacific project almost a year early.

“This not only brings freight,” U.S. Sen. Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, said referring to the locomotives and freight cars that served as a backdrop to the ceremony. “This brings new businesses, new jobs, new hope. This is a new chapter in southern New Mexico.”

The hub spans 2,200 acres and includes fueling facilities and crew-change buildings. It’s located minutes away from the Santa Teresa Port of Entry, which was recently upgraded to handle commercial traffic from industrial parks in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico

By the time the hub reaches capacity in 2025, it will provide hundreds of permanent jobs — a much-needed boost as federal statistics show New Mexico continues to trail the rest of the U.S. in job growth, despite an oil and gas boom in southeastern New Mexico.

“This brings more jobs, 600 permanent Union Pacific jobs,” Martinez said.

After the ceremony, Martinez stressed the importance of diversifying the state economy, which is heavily dependent on federal labs and the military.

New Mexico is tied for last with Kentucky in percent of job growth and is just one of four states where non-farm payrolls contracted or showed negative growth.

The new rail facility is already causing stress on surrounding communities, Udall said, noting the need for housing, management of water resources and development of a labor force.

The hub, known as the Santa Teresa Intermodal Ramp, can handle up to 225,000 containers a year and is poised to beat the initial estimate of 150,000 units in its first year, Union Pacific CEO Jack Koraleski told the crowd at the grand opening.

Intermodal transport involves the use of freight containers that can be transported on trucks, railroad cars or ships. The hub opened to truck traffic in April.

UT-Brownsville President to direct UT Institute of the Americas

McALLEN — Juliet Garcia, president of the University of Texas at Brownsville, has been selected to lead the newly formed University of Texas Institute for the Americas. Both the formation of the institute and Garcia’s appointment were announced by University of Texas System Chancellor Francisco Cigarroa.

The Rio Grande Valley institute will look to generate leadership and host dialogue on international issues within a politically neutral environment.

“Because of the incredible role that Texas is playing as a national leader in bi-cultural and bi-national studies, we need a person with exceptional leadership skills and a record of advanced achievements in higher education to help us create a presence centered in this region of our state,” Cigarroa said. “The institute will be similar to the Aspen Institute and other scholarly institutes, which foster the convening of scholars and other experts to engage in a dialogue of ideas and search for solutions in education, societal and policy issues.”

Condemned Texas inmate loses Supreme Court appeal

HOUSTON — The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review an appeal from condemned Texas inmate Duane Buck, whose supporters contend his death sentence decided by a Houston jury 17 years ago unfairly was based on race.

“His death sentence is the product of pervasive racial discrimination,” attorneys Christina Swarns, Kathryn Kase and Kate Black said in a statement Wednesday.

Without comment, the high court Tuesday rejected Buck’s appeal. The ruling was an appeal of a similar rejection in November from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court.

Buck, 50, was convicted of capital murder and sent to death row for the slaying of his ex-girlfriend and a man at her Houston apartment in July 1995. During the punishment phase of Buck’s 1997 trial, psychologist Walter Quijano testified under cross-examination by a Harris County prosecutor that black people were more likely to commit violence.

Advocates for Buck, who is black, say that unfairly influenced jurors. Quijano, called as a defense witness, had testified earlier that Buck’s personality and the nature of his crime, committed during rage, indicated he would be less of a future danger.

Buck’s case was among six in 2000 that then-Texas Attorney General John Cornyn, now a Republican U.S. senator, said needed to be reopened because of racially charged statements made during the trial sentencing phase. In the other five cases, new punishment hearings were held and each convict again was sentenced to death.

The attorney general’s office has argued Buck’s case was factually and legally different from the five others.

Buck does not have an execution date.  Buck was convicted of gunning down ex-girlfriend Debra Gardner, 32, and Kenneth Butler, 33, a week after Buck and Gardner broke up. Buck’s stepsister also was shot but survived.

– Associated Press

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