Open Court: Michelle Barrientes Vela heading to trial, plus get to know new Children’s Court Judge Raul Perales

This newsletter brings you the biggest stories in the criminal justice system in San Antonio, Bexar County and beyond

Michelle Barrientes Vela is handcuffed after she surrendered to authorities hours after she was indicted by a Bexar County grand jury. (KSAT)

The flowers are blooming, the weather is warming up and the courthouses are bustling.

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Since reopening, many cases have started to clear out helping with the backlog.

In the first three weeks, about 400 cases were resolved but the district attorney’s office said it will still take several years to catch up.

“By some estimates, the backlog of cases pending in the courts may take at least three years for the courts to catch up,” District Attorney Joe Gonzales said in a statement to KSAT 12.

In those three weeks, we’ve seen many cases ending in pleas and the resolution of a capital murder trial of a cold case from 1987.

As for what is next this spring, we can anticipate more defendants getting their day in court, including that of indicted ex-constable Michelle Barrientes Vela.

She is facing tampering with government records charges. Dillon Collier will be covering this trial and it will be live streamed on

It will surely be a trial you don’t want to miss.

The Docket:

Jonathan Johnson - charged with capital murder in the shooting deaths of two and wounding two others in Feb. 2019. His trial is expected to start April 19.

Michelle Barrientes Vela - the former Bexar County constable is charged with tampering with government records and her trial is expected to begin on April 25.

D’Lanny Chairez - charged with tampering with evidence in the death of her son, Chairez’s trial has been rescheduled several times. As of right now, it’s expected to begin April 27.

Get to know Associate Judge Raul Perales

Associate Judge Raul Perales (Copyright 2022 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Born and raised in San Antonio, Associate Judge Raul Perales was recently appointed to Bexar County’s Children’s Court.

Perales is the youngest of seven siblings and a Fox Tech graduate.

After high school, Perales attended UTSA and then Thurgood Marshall Law School in Houston.

Before becoming a judge, Perales had a private practice and then worked in the district attorney’s office as a prosecutor in cases representing the Texas Department of Family and Protective Services.

In March, he was appointed to help Judge Charles Montemayor and Judge Kimberly Burley in hearing CPS cases dealing with child abuse, neglect and domestic violence.

“These cases, I can tell you there’s people that are working tirelessly to achieve the common goal of keeping children safe and helping families,” Perales said.

When he’s not in the courtroom, Perales enjoys spending time with his wife and daughters, playing basketball and taking Zumba classes with his wife.

As for what his go-to taco is in the morning, he said nothing beats homemade.

“It has to be my mom’s chorizo with beans and chile,” Perales said.

Legal Glossary

There are often terms used in a courtroom that sound more like legal jargon than natural language. Even after years of covering court proceedings, I sometimes have to look up words to refresh my memory or make sure I fully understand them. In each newsletter, I include a different word or phrase so we can build our knowledge and understanding of the courtroom together.

Hearsay: Often times you will hear attorneys object to something a witness says by citing hearsay. This basically means the witness did not actually hear or see something in question but only heard or learned about it through a second-hand source. It is usually not admissible as evidence in court, but there could be exceptions to the rule.

Closing Arguments

I have something new working that I’m excited to talk about. A true crime podcast is in the works alongside KSAT 12 Journalist Leigh Waldman. Both of us can chat for hours about true crime pods and documentaries so it was only natural for us to start one.

For the past several years I’ve done stories looking back at crimes as part of South Texas Crime Stories. That series will now include the new podcast. It will debut later this month.

Be on the lookout for more details in this newsletter about how you can listen. I look forward to this new way of reaching out to our viewers who may be interested in true crime stories and want to know about the crimes that happened in San Antonio and our surrounding areas.

Thanks for reading,

Erica Hernandez, KSAT 12 Court Reporter

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About the Author

Erica Hernandez is an Emmy award-winning journalist with 15 years of experience in the broadcast news business. Erica has covered a wide array of stories all over Central and South Texas. She's currently the court reporter and cohost of the podcast Texas Crime Stories.

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