A Houston man charged in a deadly shootout with federal agents after a botched drug sting was found not guilty of capital murder late Wednesday.
Alfredo Gomez, 21, was facing life in prison had he been convicted.
"We said all along that Alfredo Gomez was not there, and the jury agreed that there were too many inconsistencies in the co-defendants' statements," defense attorney Dan Gerson said. "We said from the beginning that this was a frame-up."
After the verdict, prosecutors maintained their belief that Gomez was guilty.
"I obviously thought he was guilty, or I wouldn't have tried it," said Assistant Harris County District Attorney Shannon Davis. He said jurors did not trust the testimony of the other suspects, all of whom are facing life in prison on charges of capital murder.
Prosecutors had argued Gomez escaped the chaotic gunbattle that ended with the death of DEA informant Lawrence Chapa, but later was implicated by statements from the four men who were caught at the scene about 2 p.m. on Nov. 21, 2011.
Davis noted that no DNA, fingerprints or videotape linked Gomez to the bloody shootout.
"And with the two-year delay we had problems with witnesses' memories and there were concerns about retaliation," Davis said. "We knew it was going to be an uphill battle."
Chapa, 53, was driving a tractor-trailer loaded with marijuana from the border to the site of the sale, while being followed by Drug Enforcement Administration agents planning to arrest the buyers. The 18-wheeler was stopped in northwest Harris County by three sport utility vehicles full of Zetas cartel gunmen who opened fire, according to investigators.
Gerson said the four other men, who were caught at the scene, decided while they were in a holding cell together to implicate Gomez in an attempt to cut a deal. Gomez was arrested two weeks later and faced an automatic sentence of life in prison without parole if he had been convicted.
Testimony showed that Chapa died after being shot eight times by at least two different gunmen.
Ramirez pleaded guilty to murder on the eve of his trial in January. He also was charged with capital murder, but agreed to the deal because the lesser charge of murder means he will be eligible for parole in 30 years.
Gomez's trial, in visiting Judge Terry Flenniken's court, began last week.