New courthouse opening delays impacting Edinburg death penalty trial for DPS trooper’s killing

Edinburg resident Victor Godinez appears in court on March 8, 2023, for a hearing in his death penalty case for the alleged murder of Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Moises Sanchez in 2019. (Xavier Alvarez | The Monitor)

EDINBURG — The uncertainty surrounding the opening of the new Hidalgo County courthouse continues to hinder the death penalty trial of 28-year-old Victor Alejandro Godinez, the man who is accused of killing Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Moises Sanchez nearly four years ago.

Godinez, who has been in custody since April 2019, is charged with capital murder of a peace officer and two counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer for allegedly shooting Sanchez, 49, in the head and firing at two Edinburg police officers on April 6, 2019.

Sanchez died on Aug. 23, 2019, following surgery in Houston for his injuries.

On Wednesday morning, state District Judge Letty Lopez spoke of the conflicting comments she’s received regarding the opening of the new courthouse and decided the trial must go by the end of the year, but added that future plans are uncertain.

“Everything right now is tentative,” Lopez said.

After going through a motion in limine and changes to the questionnaire for potential jurors, prosecutors and Godinez’s defense attorney discussed jury selection with Lopez regarding when they should begin that process.

A motion in limine sets the ground rules for a trial in regard to what a jury can, or can’t, consider or hear, among other trial rules. The motion is one of the last stages in a case prior to jury selection.

Ultimately, Lopez stated that there’ll be two back-to-back days of jury selection during a week in September with two “waves” of people between both days.

In addition, the judge said she would like to have this trial go by the beginning of October.

However, Lopez reminded everyone that everything is still up in the air until she speaks to Hidalgo County District Clerk Laura Hinojosa to see if she can get word on when the new courthouse will officially open.

Godinez is scheduled for another status hearing in April.