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PHOTO: Driftwood resident Louis Ramos sits in a Hays County courtroom on Tuesday during a recess in the punishment phase of his murder trial. Unable to reach agreement on a sentence, jurors will return to deliberations Wednesday morning. MERCURY PHOTO by BRAD ROLLINS

by BRAD ROLLINS

Seven days into Louis Antonio Ramos Jr.’s murder trial, a Hays County jury was unable on Tuesday to agree on a prison sentence for the Driftwood man who witnesses on Tuesday described as good person consumed by drugs.

Ramos, 28, could be sentenced to life in prison for the homicide of 48-year-old Johnny Lee Saxon during a volatile confrontation on the rustic 4½-acre homesite they shared in the Rolling Oaks subdivision near Driftwood. As the trial entered its second week on Monday, the jury convicted Ramos of killing Saxon, a first-degree felony charge of murder, and of threatening to kill Saxon’s 75-year-old mother and 13-year-old daughter if they called police, second-degree felony charges of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

In finding the defendant guilty of murder, jurors rejected the possibility that Ramos had acted in self-defense. The jury could still, however, find that Ramos acted out of “sudden passion … directly caused by and arising out of provocation by the individual killed or another acting with the person killed.” Under those conditions, murder carries a sentence of two to 20 years under the Texas Penal Code.

“All the different things people hope to accomplish with punishment — retribution, rehabilitation, to protect society — I submit to you that you can still accomplish all of those goals while at some point still giving Mr. Ramos a chance that, at some point in the future, he’ll have a chance at life again,” defense attorney Matthew Nichols argued. “…We’re not asking for two years. There will be a long period of time when Mr. Ramos will be in the Texas Department of Corrections.”

Invoking moving testimony earlier in the day from Saxon’s family members, Hays County Assistant District Attorney Ben Moore asked jurors to give Ramos a life sentence.

”I want you to give [Ramos] a year for every time Hailee does a chest compression on the 911 tape [while performing CPR on her father]. I want you to give a year for every time she says, ‘Daddy.’ And I want you to give a year for everytime these girls wake up in that area where you’re still dreaming but you’re kind of awake — and you don’t know about your dad,” Moore said.

If the jury determines that Ramos did not act out of sudden passion — that he killed Saxon in cold-blood — the defendant faces 20 years to life in a Texas Department of Criminal justice facility; each of the aggravated assault charges can carry sentences of two to 20 years themselves. 207th State District Judge Jack Robison told jurors that he will order multiple sentences they impose to be run concurrently rather than consecutively, or “stacked.”

After less than two hours of discussion, the jury foreman on Tuesday sent a note to Robison suggesting they were in disagreement about whether Ramos acted out of sudden passion when he killed Saxon. What should jurors do if they could not reach an unanimous decision?, they asked.

Robison summoned the defendant and lawyers back to the courtroom where he instructed jurors to continue deliberating until they could pass a sentence, an “Allen charge” intended to break deadlock. Shortly before 5 p.m., jurors sent word that they were unlikely to reach unanimity during that sitting and Robison recessed for the day; the jury will begin discussions again when court reconvenes this morning.

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