Jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes

Christopher Maher, Alice Echo-News Journal

Marie Gallegos was sentenced to 74 years in prison Friday, after she was found guilty of the October 2005 murder of Jimmy Brown.

After a week-long trial, a Jim Wells County jury deliberated for less than 30 minutes before returning a guilty verdict in the case.

Gallegos was charged with the Oct. 24, 2005 murder of Jimmy Brown, a 73-year-old Alice man.

Gallegos took the stand during the punishment phase of the trial Friday evening, and said she and Brown were friends and had a standing arrangement that he would give her money, occasionally in return for sexual favors. Gallegos testified that the night Brown was killed, she had asked him for money but declined specific sexual requests he made of her, which led to an argument and physical confrontation that ended with Gallegos stabbing Brown in the neck.

"I don't really know, it just happened," Gallegos said. "Sometimes I wish I was the one who would have died, not Mr. Brown."

Gallegos wept as the jury read its sentence, 74 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. She will not be eligible for parole until 2037.

Prosecutor Lee Persohn concluded his case Friday with testimony from Renee Rosas, a juvenile who was driving the vehicle in which Gallegos was a passenger at the time of her arrest.

Rosas testified she and Gallegos frequently used drugs together, and said Gallegos told her about killing Brown. Rosas also testified Gallegos said Brown had "had it coming," and that she had told Brown "why don't you die already," while he was bleeding to death. Under cross-examination, Rosas also testified all charges against her had been dropped by the district attorney's office in exchange for her statement.

Rosas had been placed into the custody of the Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department Thursday under a writ of attachment after failing to appear to testify, but she was released from custody following her testimony Friday.

In presenting its case Friday, the defense called two Jim Wells County Sheriff's Department deputies who were involved in Gallegos' arrest. Both deputies testified Gallegos appeared to be under the influence of narcotics at the time of her arrest.

In his closing statement, defense attorney Homero Canales asked the jury to consider that Gallegos may have been forced to kill Brown in self-defense.

"He did not deserve to die, but he was playing with fire," Canales said. "He put her in a situation from which she could not extricate herself."

In returning its sentence, the jury could have considered a reduced sentence between two and 20 years under a special provision that gives consideration of crimes of "sudden passion." However, the jury found that the murder did not meet the requirements of that provision, and instead considered a standard range of punishment between 5 and 99 years to life.

District Judge Richard Terrell said a final sentencing hearing will be scheduled next week.