Deliberation lasted for less than two hours

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

A Jim Wells County jury returned a guilty verdict Thursday in the indecency with a child trial of Manuel Soliz and sentenced him to 15 years in prison.

The jury deliberated for less than two hours Thursday before returning the guilty verdict in the case.

The jury sentenced Soliz to 15 years in prison, and assessed a $1,500 fine. The charge of indecency with a child is a second-degree felony and, because he has prior felony convictions, Soliz could have been sentenced to up to 20 years and a $10,000 fine.

In his argument during the sentencing phase of the trial, defense attorney Juan Martinez Gonzales asked the jury to assess the minimum sentence of two years. Holding a Bible in front of the jury, Martinez Gonzales quoted from the story of Saul and asked for compassion.

"If you go to church, if you believe, practice your Christianity," Martinez Gonzales said. "If God Almighty can be compassionate to the murderer Saul, then you can be compassionate to this man."

In his response, prosecutor Lee Persohn said the jury was to serve as the "voice of the community," and asked them for the maximum sentence.

"What compassion did he show this little girl," Persohn asked. "There's two judgments. The judgment on earth, here, now, in this courtroom. And then there is the judgment this man will face before his God."

Following the trial, the victim's mother thanked the jury for returning a guilty verdict, but questioned why they had not given the maximum punishment available.

"Thank you to the jury, for one," she said.

"But the 15 years that they gave him was not nearly enough, because my daughter is going to be scarred with this for life."