EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) — The man convicted of killing popular DJ Rick “Mardi Gras” Madrigal in 2016 will get a new trial after the 8th Court of Criminal Appeals ruled the State improperly admitted evidence against a blood splatter witness in the case.

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File Photo: Rick Madrigal

Leonel Hernandez was convicted of Madrigal’s murder by a jury in 2019 and sentenced to 50 years in prison for his alleged role in killing Madrigal, who was found inside his apartment in West El Paso on June 11, 2016.

Madrigal, who was 33 at the time, was best known as a radio host but was a local tourism manager at Destination El Paso at the time of the shooting.

Prosecutors said Hernandez shot Madrigal out of jealousy because Madrigal was partying with Hernandez’s girlfriend, Marinda Palacios, that weekend. 

El Paso Police also charged Palacios with failure to report a felony resulting in death.

The defense argued against three issues brought about during the trial in Judge Marcos Lizarraga’s court.

First, they argued Lizarraga erroneously allowed a detective to testify about Hernandez’s post-interrogation and off-camera statements about the murder weapon. Second, they argued that evidence was legally insufficient to support the jury’s verdict because expert testimony interpreting the physical evidence precluded him as the shooter and left only Palacios as the alternative suspect.

Third, the defense argued that Lizarraga improperly allowed the State to discredit the defense expert witness with an opinion that concluded the expert had perjured himself when testifying in a civil case in Wisconsin.

In a ruling issued May 31, Justice Jeff Alley dismissed the defense’s first two arguments. Still, he concluded that the State had allowed the State to improperly discuss whether the defendant’s blood splatter witness had perjured himself in an out-of-state trial.

Judge Gina Palafox wrote a dissenting opinion, stating she disagreed that the complaint issued in the appeal affected Hernandez’s substantial rights.

Despite the defense’s attempt to paint Palacios as the person responsible for Madrigal’s death, the case against her was dismissed in August 2019.

A new trial date for Hernandez has not yet been set.

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