Trial for man accused of killing HPD Sgt. postponed 3 weeks after juror tests positive for COVID

Robert Soliz's trial is scheduled to resume on Aug. 22.

Mycah Hatfield Image
Monday, August 1, 2022
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The trial is scheduled to resume on Aug. 22.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The trial of the man accused of shooting and killing Houston police Sgt. Sean Rios has been postponed for three weeks.

The judge told the jury the decision was made due to "unforeseen circumstances." It was learned that a juror tested positive for COVID-19.

RELATED: Judge to rule if videos of Sgt. Rios alleged killer driving erratically will be shown to jurors

The trial is scheduled to resume on Aug. 22.

Attorneys met with Judge Ana Martinez in her chambers on Friday to discuss a health issue someone involved in the trial was facing. Before the three-week postponement on Monday, the decision was made to dismiss jurors and continue testimony after the weekend.

For about an hour after jurors were sent home on Friday, attorneys asked the judge to determine if specific Snapchat videos, unrelated to the shooting itself, found on defendant Robert Soliz's phone would be admissible in court.

Prosecutors played several videos in open court, showing Soliz in the Mercedes he was riding in the day of the shooting. In the videos, he's pointing a gun, which investigators believe to be the weapon used in the shooting, at his phone's camera while driving erratically on the freeway. He's also seen sitting with a gun in his lap in the car, and more.

SEE ALSO: Sgt. Sean Rios murder: Jury shown Robert Soliz's Snapchat video after HPD officer's killing

Several videos were related to an incident on Sept. 5, 2020, that showed Soliz and a Ford F-150 pulled over on the side of a freeway. He was heard saying that the driver of the truck claimed he had hit his car. Soliz spoke about shooting the other driver.

"I agree, they are very damning to Mr. Soliz," prosecutor Sarah Seely said.

Prosecutors claim that the defense has tried to paint a picture of a cover-up or conspiracy to protect Rios during their investigation.

She said defense attorneys were critical of the case's lead detective, Sgt. Maria Resnick, during cross-examination. She was asked by defense attorney Paul Looney if Rios was ever looked at as a suspect. She said no.

One of the prosecutors said the judge had ruled ahead of the trial that information relating to certain things that were uncovered about Soliz during the investigation could not be discussed, which limited what Resnick could say in response. She said that could have been misleading to jurors.

Prosecutors argued that the law allows them to use extraneous evidence, which would be the videos showing a pattern of Soliz's behavior on the road with weapons, to reboot the defense's theory of a conspiracy to cover up a crime.

RELATED: HPD detective agrees that Sgt. Sean Rios wasn't looked at as a suspect in deadly shootout

"Our defensive theory has nothing to do with fabrication or cover-up or conspiracy to frame Robert," defense attorney Wade Smith said. "We are critical of the investigation."

He said they are alleging that police were conflicted during the course of the investigation because it was a member of their department.

"The state has offered no evidence to suggest how this even started," Smith said.

Smith argued that the videos do not prove anything about how the confrontation between Rios and Soliz started, because none of them were taken the day of the shooting.

He claims the videos, which were at most 10 seconds each, were taken out of context.

Thursday, prosecutors showed jurors three videos of both men's cars in motion on the North Freeway about two minutes prior to the shootout.

"The state's own exhibits show normal driving behavior," Smith said.

The judge will rule on whether the videos can be shown to the jury. She could elect to allow none, some, or all of the videos.

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