Hurt feelings, warnings of Contempt and the entering of critical evidence dominated the trial Monday of the Marine veteran who was shot during a standoff with Austin Police. Prosecutors rested their case after a combative morning. It began with a senior Assistant D.A. -who was helping the prosecution team with the trial - agreeing to step down after he called the defense attorney a dirty name in court on Friday. Later in the morning-the defense attorney, who complained about the name calling incident, also got in trouble. The judge threatened to put the attorney in Contempt for trying slip in a statement before the Jury that was not allowed at the time. Tension continued to increase with a fight over evidence that could very well determine the verdict.
It's unclear whether or not Gene Vela will take the stand in his own defense, but Monday words were entered into evidence that Vela had allegedly texted to his brother, Jason. The text message appeared to be sent, according to APD Detective Chris Vetrano, while a standoff with police was about to begin.
"There is a message from Gene Vela that says, "They are comings."
Jason Vela responded with, "Huh" with a question mark. And then at 9:35 Gene Vela responded with "Swat," said Vetrano.
Vetrano went on to tell the jury after Vela's brother responded with "ugh,why" - there was no other replay. The exchange, November 10th, 2013, is critical to the 1st Degree felony Assault on a Public Servant case against Vela. Prosecutors argue Vela knew police were at his apartment as he allegedly waved a gun, as he flashed a laser targeting device and after a police dispatcher called to tell him that police were there.
Defense attorney Skip Davis continues to say his client, a former Marine, was in the midst of a PTSD driven mental breakdown. In explaining the text message to Vela's brother Davis contends it's a reference to a request vela had made earlier that evening -for two friends to come over and talk.
"So it could be that his comment about, they are coming, might have been related to an entirely different event ... than those guys showing up at his doorstep," said Davis.
The text about "Swat" Davis suggested it could have been some kind of typo.
Vela was certified with having PTSD about two months before the standoff. It was clarified by the judge that because Vela is not claiming insanity as a Defense, his PTSD defense can only lessen the felony charge against him, and not win him an acquittal. Davis argues the issue of PTSD is part of a Self Defense defense. Vela allegedly told investigators he believed he was being attacked by Muslims.
A psychologist for the defense told the jury, along with the PTSD diagnosis, Vela had been sexually and physically abused as a child.
The jury could get the case tomorrow.