AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Travis County District Attorney will seek the death penalty for Brandon Daniel, the suspect arrested in Senior Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron's shooting death in April.
District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg had since been carefully considering whether to seek the death penalty in the case -- something Chief Art Acevedo had immediately pushed for when initially responding to the media in the early morning hours of the shooting inside a North Austin Walmart.
In a county where the death penalty is rarely sought, officials weighed the community outrage over the officer's killing, the grand funeral procession, the arrangements and the amount of people moved over the entire incident in the community -- among many other things.
"He wasn't just taken from his family," said Acevedo. "He wasn't just taken from us, the Austin Police Department and his law enforcement colleagues. He was taken from this community."
"And it was not just an attack on an officer," he continued. "It was an attack on the fabric that holds our community together. So I believe -- what he has taken from this community -- this community should have that option, the ultimate price for the ultimate act of committing a capital murder of a police officer."
Although it was ultimately Lehmberg's decision, it was one the district attorney had to first run through a committee of trusted advisors within her office -- people with differing views and some who even oppose the death penalty itself.
Steps before a decision is made
- Office will review all evidence
- Officials will talk to Austin Police Department thoroughly, including detectives who will explain all the evidence
- Authorities will talk to Padron's family, though that won't be the deciding factor. Montford said there have been cases, however, where families sometimes don't want to seek the death penalty but the DA's office goes ahead with pursuing it.
- DA's office will review previous cases where the death penalty has been sought, analyzing what the jury did.
Likely defense stance
Because Daniel was reportedly drinking and on Xanax when the murder happened, many have wondered about a plea of temporary insanity.
It's one that KXAN Legal Analyst Mindy Montford said is not a valid defense, adding that while voluntary intoxication is not a defense to your conduct.
The defense, however, may be able to get into that slightly once a verdict is returned, as a mitigation of conduct -- though still not as a defense to the conduct itself.
The defense may be able to use it to explain -- putting into perspective for the jury -- and in an effort to try to get some sympathy from the jury. Defense attorneys would argue that because of the voluntary intoxication, this is not the way that the suspect normally acts.
In addition, Montford noted that while Daniel does have a criminal history, it does not include any violent offenses. It's likely, then, that the defense will pose to the jury that something went terribly wrong that night -- making sure the jury knows that the person Daniel was on the morning he allegedly shot Padron dead was not the person Daniel typically was.
Background, history and all sorts of other varying information will all play into the trial. Montford added the process would be a long one.
"Even if they do get a conviction, you're going to see this go through the system for many, many years before that family feels that justice has actually been done," said Montford.
Along those same lines, prosecutors will bring up for the jury the legacy Padron left behind, in addition to his two young daughters and family members.
- Police thank city for tributes
- Sheriffs' group to honor officer's memory
- Walmart workers were Padron's 'angels'
Status of Daniel's appearances in court
Until the pretrial hearings in this case start going on the record with witness testimony, Daniel likely won't be appearing in court. Other pretrial hearings are mainly for the judge to check in with lawyers to see how the case is progressing.
Meanwhile, the trial date is slated for fall 2013.
Attorneys for Daniel told KXAN News in early August that they are working with the district attorney's office to get the case moving forward.
Witnesses said Padron was shot near the McDonald's store that sits at the front of the building. He was able to radio for other officers after being shot, but when they arrived Padron had died.
"Of course, that decision ultimately affects what we do on the case," said Brad Urrutia, who represents Daniel, in August. "So, there really are a lot of things we can't do until they make that decision."
Urrutia said they don't expect a trial for at least for another year -- possibly fall 2013.
Padron's legacy of service
Padron, 40, was shot to death while responding to an early morning call about
someone acting erratically inside the store. When he approached Daniel, 24, the officer was shot in the neck. Store employees subdued Daniel and tried desperately to save Padron's life, police said at the time.
Daniel, reportedly had been drinking heavily and under the influence of Xanax in the hours before the shooting.
Padron joined the Austin Police Department just more than three years before he was killed and also served as a police officer at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as part of the Emergency Management Department that consolidated with APD in 2009
Before that, he spent 14 years as a police officer in San Angelo.
Padron was the first Austin police officer killed on duty since 2004.
Sub-freezing temperatures and an approaching upper level disturbance could combine to produce some patchy freezing drizzle or sleet Saturday and early Sunday morning.
Investigators are still trying to figure out who murdered an Austin teacher in Benghazi on Thursday.
Back in June, Governor Rick Perry signed a new law officially letting teachers and students use greetings such as "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Hannukah" in school, all without getting in any trouble.
The Round Rock-based computer giant, Dell Inc., is offering some workers voluntary buyouts as it seeks to trim costs and boost productivity.
The Austin Humane Society reopened to the public Friday after closing its doors for six weeks.
Sub-freezing temperatures will continue across much of Central Texas all day Saturday. A second disturbance associated with the winter storm that slammed Texas Thursday and Friday could lead to more freezing precipitation Saturday and …