Defense questions Navarro co-defendant about plea deal

Navarro trial

Another day of testimony in the capital murder trial of Matthew Navarro ended Monday afternoon with defense attorney Evan Pierce-Jones asking one of Navarro's co-defendants, Alex Gil Jr., about the deal Gil made earlier with prosecutors.

Navarro is standing trial in the December 2009 shooting death of Ronald Philen in Brownwood. The state contends that Navarro and three other men including Gil went to the Philen brothers' home with the intent of robbing Ronald Philen of marijuana.

Gil is a state's witness against Navarro. Last year, Gil pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a 40-year prison sentence. Gil will be eligible for parole, but a capital murder conviction would mean a mandatory life sentence without parole. The state has waived the death penalty.

Answering Jones' questions in a lengthy cross-examination, Gil said he understands that he will be eligible for parole after he has served half his sentence and will be in his 40s if paroled at that time. "You got yourself a chance to go home one day," Jones told Gil.

The state has yet to call another one of Navarro's co-defendants, Efrain Castillo III, who also pleaded guilty to murder in exchange for a 40-year sentence.

Gil and Castillo both testified in the earlier trial of co-defendant Pedro Rocha Jr.. Rocha was convicted of capital murder.

As District Judge Steve Ellis prepared to dismiss the jury for the day, Ellis asked the attorneys for estimates of how much longer the trial will last.

District Attorney Micheal Murray estimated it will take three more days for the state to conclude its case. Jones said his case might be concluded by Friday afternoon.

Ellis told jurors they will likely be back in court into next week — Monday and possibly Tuesday. Even if the defense closes by late Friday, Ellis said, there must be time for the reading of the charge to the jury and attorneys' closing arguments before jurors begin deliberating.

"My intent is not to keep you up here late on Friday or through the weekend," Ellis told jurors.