Brownsville, TX - “While we commend the jury for doing the right thing in finding Taylor Nicole Ramirez GUILTY as charged, we are extremely disappointed with their sentence of five years. I believe it send the wrong message to the public that juries in Cameron County are NOT serious about fatalities caused by drunk drivers” said Cameron County District Attorney Luis V. Saenz to News Center 23 and in media release shortly after a high profile Intoxication Manslaughter case ended.
Friday juror handed down a 5 year sentence for Ramirez who killed David Salinas after a night of binge drinking. Jurors heard testimony a Harlingen Police Officer who specializes in crash reconstruction. Officer Antonio Maldonado reconstructed the crash that took the life of motorcyclist David Salinas and broke down the figures the Crash Data Recorder collected. The device is also known as the “Black Box” similar to what is found in commercial aircrafts. The C.D.R. records 5 Seconds prior to an airbag being deployed according to Maldonado. He testified, 5 seconds before impact, Ramirez was traveling 81 mph.
Cameron County Assistant District Attorney Nathaniel Navey questioned Maldonado about the time intervals data is recorded. Maldonado said “a crash recorder breaks down the numbers every half second.” Based on the data, two seconds before the driver side airbag was deployed Ramirez slammed on the brakes and the Anti-Lock Braking System was activated. Within those two seconds Ramirez speed declined from 81 mph to 53 mph. Maldonado testified at 53 mph was when the airbags were deployed. This told investigators she hit Salinas just 2 miles under the posted 55 mph speed limit.
Harlingen Police Detective Eduardo Padilla testified his finding from surveillance video recorded by a gas station at the corner Loop 499 and Grimes in Harlingen where the crash had occurred before 2 AM August 30, 2016.
Salinas was stopped at a green light at the intersection and “impeding traffic.” In the video Salinas’ bike “jerked” or “stalled” moments before impact. The defense claims the bike’s presumed “stalling” and alcohol consumption played a role in potential operator error.
Jurors also watched as Harlingen Police investigators questioned Ramirez, 12 hours after she was arrested. During the questioning Ramirez was asked to recount the amount of alcohol that she had consumed throughout the day. Ramirez recounted a variety of alcoholic drinks at multiple establishments throughout the evening.
Ramirez’ attorney John Blaylock argued the legitimacy of the blood alcohol content results. Texas Department of Public Safety crime lab scientist Adam Tucker testified Ramirez’s is BAC was .248. Blaylock called the results flawed because a subject’s height, weight, what foods were in the digestive system and how the body metabolizes alcohol was not taken into consideration and to presume her BAC was higher at the time of the crash is a "guesstimation". Tucker acknowledged the numbers are not exact and further testing would be needed to be exact. However, Ramirez failed every field sobriety test given by Harlingen police officer Nikolas Torrel.
Before Ramirez was sentenced and escorted to begin her prison term, David's father Rudy Salinas, eldest sister Glenda Rodriguez and sister Yvette Salinas spoke of their brother to persuade jurors to give Ramirez the maximum 20 year punishment.
Yvette Salinas told the court with tears, "nothing is going to bring him back." Rudy Salinas, told the jurors David's organs were donated and he saved seven people, "he's my hero." "My son is still alive... I just hope they take advantage of what my son did for them." Glenda Rodriguez's struggled to speak through the sadness, " I'm broken. We lost our mom and then to lose David... I hope you never have to go through something like that... I have so much hate toward you... you took my baby brother... I just want you to get what you deserve."
Juan Ramirez spoke to the jurors and begged for leniency. He admitted he failed as a father by not addressing his daughter's alcoholism and brushed it off as a phase, "I can't fell anything but shame... I'm the fool who just kept saying 'she's young'... I'm sorry I failed my daughter."
Despite the loss of their youngest son and baby brother, the jurors felt 5 years is what Ramirez's deserved as punishment. For those who rallied for justice, it begs the question, "was justice for David served?"