Punishment Phase: Trial ongoing in death of former Press editor

By Gaige Davila 


Ronnie Huerta’s motorcycle after colliding with Sweeten on Highway 100 in Port Isabel.

Sweeten at the Port Isabel-South Padre Press office in an undated photo.


Editor’s note: This story will be updated as the trial progresses and a sentence is made. 



Ronnie Huerta, who allegedly hit and killed former PRESS editor Elizabeth “Liz” Sweeten on a motorcycle, as she crossed Highway 100 in Port Isabel, on March 4, 2018, is standing punishment trial this week for manslaughter. 

On Monday, the 138th District Court of Cameron County began jury selection in an intoxicated manslaughter charge against Huerta. As of the PRESS’ print time Thursday, the trial was still ongoing, with no indication of its end. 

During the crash, Sweeten was killed instantly, while Huerta went into a coma with multiple severe injuries. According to the Port Isabel Police Department, Huerta was riding in the shoulder lane after coming off the Causeway, at 60 to 70 miles an hour. The speed limit in Port Isabel is 30 miles an hour. Huerta’s blood alcohol level was over the legal limit at the time of the crash, Port Isabel Police Chief Robert Lopez told the PRESS last March. 

Huerta was arrested at his home in Mercedes in October 2018, seven months after the accident. Lopez told the PRESS previously that the delay in arrest was due to Huerta’s injuries. Huerta was confined to a wheelchair then, and was still using a wheelchair in court this week, according to a report by the Brownsville Herald. 

Huerta pleaded guilty to manslaughter this past May, which carries a 2 to 20 year sentence and $10,000 fine, if convicted. Huerta initially pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and intoxication manslaughter in November 2018, but there were not enough jurors in the pool to select a jury for the penalty, the PRESS previously reported on May 16, with potential jurors being excused, leaving an insufficient number to select a panel from.

Permanent link to this article: https://www.portisabelsouthpadre.com/2019/09/27/punishment-phase-trial-ongoing-in-death-of-former-press-editor/

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