Prosecutors in the punishment phase of the capital murder trial of Mark Anthony Soliz showed three videos for jurors Monday afternoon to illustrate the convicted killer’s propensity to act out while in custody.
Jurors must decide whether to sentence Soliz to life in prison or to the death penalty.
Officials at the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center testified that Soliz was found to be in possession of contraband several times and on a few occasions was pepper sprayed, once for bumping a jailer and for failure to follow orders.
Jurors on Friday found Soliz, 30, guilty of capital murder in connection with the June 29, 2010, shooting death of Nancy Weatherly in her Godley home.
The Fort Worth resident and Jose Ramos, 29, also of Fort Worth, were both charged with capital murder in Johnson and Tarrant counties in the same-day shooting deaths of Weatherly, 61, and Ruben Martinez, a delivery truck driver, in Fort Worth.
Jurors must weigh a few things in deciding whether to give a sentence of death, including determining whether Soliz would commit criminal acts of violence that would constitute a continuing threat to society, including acts inside prison that would threaten other inmates or jail officers.
Over the objections of prosecutors, Soliz’s attorney, Michael Heiskell, attempted to enter into testimony Ramos’ misconduct in custody. District Judge Bill Bosworth allowed Heiskell to ask several questions about Ramos outside the presence of the jury but ultimately said he does not see how Ramos’ conduct relates to that of Soliz’s. Heiskell argued that jurors should be allowed to compare the conduct of both.
Lt. David Boggess of the Johnson County Law Enforcement Center testified that inmates in administrative segregation, or solitary confinement, basically have 24 hours a day to “find ways to beat the system and hide things.”
Boggess discussed cell shakedowns and the items of contraband, including possible weapons, jailers often find.
Heiskell asked Boggess if steps have been taken at Texas Department of Corrections jails to improve safety for jailers.
Boggess said yes, but also told Johnson County Assistant District Attorney Martin Strahan that shakedowns remain a necessity in the state jail system.
“No matter what you do with that cell you still have that inmate in there who can hurt you,” Boggess said.
Cpl. Dana Kinnard of JCLEC testified that Soliz at one point damaged a radio in his cell and busted a light. At another time Soliz managed to slip his right hand out of a handcuff and at another time “just kept playing with himself” while in a room with a female doctor.
Kinnard said he has not seen Soliz engage in other “sex stuff” with other females at the jail but has heard rumors.
Video from the jail shot on Jan. 14 showed Soliz arriving back from jury selection at the Guinn Justice Center and being led to his cell by several jailers. Once in the cell, Soliz several times yells, “Think you’re strong enough?” and “That’s what I thought” to one of the jailers. Shortly after, Soliz says “What you want to push me for?” before being subdued.
An earlier, silent video from the same day showed Soliz in the holding cell at Guinn. After sitting on a bench for several minutes, Soliz wets toilet paper and flings it at the cell’s camera several times until it sticks and blocks the lens. Several minutes later, a jailer removes the toilet paper by which point guards have Soliz subdued on the floor.
Soliz’s other attorney, Greg Westfall, countered with a 50-minute video showing Soliz in the Guinn cell awaiting his morning court appearance.
In the video, Soliz picked up what appears to be an earring, which he attempts to affix to his ear before moving to play with his jacket hanging on the wall. The rest of the video showed Soliz walking in circles or back and forth in his cell almost nonstop, though at one point he wets toilet paper and begins to clean the sink and either the wall or a mirror. At another point, Soliz sits on the sink and appears to sleep for about 14 minutes before guards arrive to lead him into court.
Although defense attorneys didn’t comment on the video, Heiskell earlier asked if it was common for inmates confined to solitary to become agitated.
Monday concluded with testimony from Robert Presney, a crime-scene unit operator with the Fort Worth Police Department. Presney responded to a June 24 report of a drive-by shooting with the victim shot in the head.
The victim, Luis Luna, was allegedly shot in the ear by Soliz during an argument that day. The bullet passed through Luna’s ear, Presney said.
Testimony concluded with pictures of Luna in a bed at John Peter Smith Hospital and close-ups of his bloodied ear.