Thursday, August 30, 2007

"Victim's kin split at hearing for ex-cop in 'Starlight' case"

This case (Express-News source) just keeps getting weirder.

It was strange enough when the transsexual called Gabriel Bernal, a.k.a. "Starlight", accused a San Antonio police officer of raping him late at night. The officer was convicted of the crime a year ago and is now serving time, and that seemed to be the end of the case.

But now, family members of Starlight are casting doubt on his story, and the cop wants a new trial, saying he had been set up.

Dean Gutierrez, 47, a 16-year veteran of the force, had a gallery full of supportive family even while relatives of the victim, 24-year-old Gabriel Bernal, formerly known as "Starlight," were taking turns on the stand to either buttress or cast doubt on the argument by Gutierrez's new defense team that the rape charge was a setup.


At issue is the contention by the new defense team members from the Federal Defender's Office that an FBI report and other documents they only recently learned about would have led them to an estranged aunt of Bernal's, Carol Lopez, who would have opened a wider vein of inquiry exposing the setup conspiracy.


On Wednesday, Bernal's mother, brother, sister-in-law, uncle, two sisters and an aunt testified — often visibly stressed and offering conflicting and fragmented statements — about whether they had heard Bernal "bragging" about the incident. Prosecutor Bill Baumann characterized the testimony as arising from a "milieu of bitter family discord."

Brother Rocky Bernal testified that he spoke on various occasions with Gabriel Bernal, including after Gutierrez's conviction.

"I said, "And (Gutierrez) is just sitting there (in prison) for no reason?" And he said, 'Yeah,'" Rocky Bernal said.

Weird stuff. I don't know what to think at this point.

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