Day 2 at the 445th~ How the BPD's Detective Clipper and Lieutenant Niño Botched the Marisa Hernandez-Govea Case
|Officer Esteban Niño|
A tape played in the 445th District Court Tuesday showed that Marin called to report a "10-50 minor," a fender bender.(Actually, the call should have been for a 10-57, a Hit-and-Run.) The 25 year old sheriff's deputy also stated clearly, that his mother had "hit an animal," something contradicting the later testimony of two family members.
Had the incident been described correctly, then rookie cop, Esteban Niño, would likely not have been dispatched, not even being certified to work accidents. Niño, now a lieutenant, would probably not been as lackadaisical in getting to the accident scene, stopping to issue a warning citation on his way.
When Niño finally made his way to the stretch of FM 803 between FM 511 and Hwy 100, he expected to find a white VW Jetta and some accident debris, but he found neither. After a call back to dispatch, Niño was directed to the Marisa Hernandez Govea driveway at 9305 FM 803, just a mile from the ditch along the west side of FM 803 where Mary Tipton's body would be found three days later.
Lieutenant Niño remembered seeing a Cameron County Sheriff's vehicle in the driveway and putting on his older issue police vehicle's emergency lights to get noticed. He was met by Marin Hernandez, who, Niño said, "did most of the talking.
|Marisa Govea Hernandez|
Officer Niño's interview of the alleged hit-and-run driver was brief at best, done through a doorway. The BPD officer said Mrs. Hernandez gave him one word answers, volunteering little. In any event, Niño's first report of the incident had Hernandez' vehicle traveling north, when, actually the video shows it traveling south.
Defense Attorney Ernesto Gamez worked like crazy to impeach or discredit Officer Niño, lest the jury believe his testimony that "Marin said his mother may have struck a pedestrian."
If Marin believed that, it certainly explained why he, his brother Mario and girlfriend, Carla, and mother, searched both sides of FM 803 with flashlights. Both Marin and brother Mario claimed their mother, the defendant, did her own private search of the area.
|Retired BPD Detective Clipper|
Now-retired detective, Thomas Clipper, played out his huge role in the case with his incredibly inept mishandling of evidence. After getting possession of a security video from a warehouse adjacent to the accident site with three days of footage, Clipper used his cellphone to preserve only 40 seconds, returning the tape back to the shop keeper. Six months later the evidence was taped without the Brownsville Police Department having the sense or judgement to retrieve it.(Clipper gave the courtroom a lighter moment today as he leaned over the rail behind the defense team and totally mooned the entire court audience, not once, but twice. A BPD officer whispered in his ear and he yanked up his britches.)
Clipper was also credited, rightly or wrongly, by Marin Hernandez, of reassuring him that the body found in a ditch along FM 803 had no connection to his mother's accident three days earlier because the "body was fresh."
|Erin, Ernesto Gamez|
Ernesto and Erin Gamez, the father and daughter defense team, used what's left of the tape in an attempt to show that Marisa Hernandez Govea had her headlights on before her car struck Mrs. Tipton.
Assistant Defense Attorney Nate Navey used another portion of the same tape to demonstrate the headlights came on only at impact.
A frustrating section of testimony was Prosecutor Oscar Guzman's questioning of Officer Niño. A dozen times in a row, Ernesto Gamez objected to Guzman's "leading of the witness." Judge Banales would order Guzman to "rephrase the question," and Guzman would simply come back with another question putting words in the mouth of the witness.
Gamez later ran into his own troubles with Banales as he attempted to read a portion of Niño's report written in Spanish. More than once, Judge Banales stopped Gamez from reading the words in Spanish without first translating them into English or availing himself of the court interpreter.
Carla Escobedo, the live-in girlfriend of Mario Hernandez, at first testified that Mario's brother Marin, in reporting his mother's accident, did not state that she'd hit an animal. The jury was excused and Carla listened to a tape of the phone call made while she was in the car with Marin, Mario and her mother-in-law. She admitted in testimony later that Marin did say that his mother had struck an animal.
The jury of eight women and four men has much to sort out and testimony continues tomorrow.