AUSTIN (KXAN) - More than three weeks after the murder of Senior Police Officer Jaime Padron, the accused remains in jail awaiting whether Travis County District Attorney Rosemary Lehmberg will seek the death penalty against him.
"You're not going to have a decision for a while," said Criminal Defense Attorney and KXAN News Legal Analyst Mindy Montford. "They want to know if they seek the death penalty, this is an air-tight case."
Montford spoke about what the District Attorney's Office is considering when it comes to deciding whether the death sentence will be pursued.
"It is an incredibly hard decision. It's a huge case," said Montford. "All eyes are going to be on that office."
In a county where the death penalty is rarely sought, Montford said officials will be weighing 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.
"It's going to be really hard to take a look back and say, 'We're not seeking the death penalty,'" said Montford.
And it's a big decision Lehmberg will first run through a committee of trusted advisors within her office who have been there for years -- 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.
And while there will be a big discussion surrounding whether or not the death penalty will be possible, Montford was quick to point out a key factor:
"At the end of the day, it will be her [Lehmberg's] decision alone," said Montford.
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 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.
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.
Capital murder suspect's court hearing
Expected to be in court Friday morning, Brandon Montgomery Daniel, 24, was not physically present for a hearing surrounding his February DWI charge. The DWI court hearing for Daniel has been reset for May 25 and will now include his capital murder charge.
He is accused of gunning down the 40-year-old officer at the Walmart off Interstate 35 near Parmer Lane.
Six days before a previous court hearing for that DWI charge was set, Daniel allegedly shot Padron inside that North Austin Walmart.
Daniel is charged with capital murder in the shooting death, and he is no stranger to law enforcement.
Records show that Daniel lived in an apartment complex at 3401 West Parmer Lane near the Walmart beginning in February 2011. Before that, he had several addresses in Colorado dating back to 2005. His Facebook page shows he attended Colorado State University in Fort Collins, and that he attended high school in Parker, Colo.
Several squad cars and a crime scene unit were at the North Austin complex on April 6. Neighbors interviewed said they did not know Daniel but some were unnerved about hearing of the events at Walmart.
Chief Art Acevedo said on the early morning of April 6 when he spoke to the media that he was pushing for the murder charge.
"We'll all work together to put together a case to present to a grand jury in this community and hopefully to a jury that will hold this person accountable for taking the life of an officer who was simply trying to do his job and keeping this community safe," said Acevedo.
If convicted of capital murder, Daniel
could face the death penalty.
Meanwhile, Acevedo said he's sure Walmart surveillance cameras captured the incident unfolding.
"I'm confident we will have very dramatic video of this confrontation," he said.
That will be in addition to audio from Padron's dash cam recording device.
Padron had just more than three years on the force with APD. He was shot in the neck after Daniels allegedly immediately began fighting with him when Padron arrived on scene.
Padron was a father of two young daughters, ages 10 and 6. He leaves behind an ex-wife who lives in the area, parents and family in San Angelo.
Before serving on the force, Padron worked for Austin-Bergstrom International Airport police as part of the emergency management department that consolidated with APD in 2009. Before that, he was on the San Angelo Police Department for 14 years.
A web page that honors law enforcement officers killed while doing their duty set up a memorial page for him just hours after the shooting.
How to help
The nonprofit 100 Club of Central Texas has set up fund to assist Officer Padron's family
The incident on the eve of the Easter weekend jarred the police department.
"It's a tragedy on Good Friday to lose an officer like this, but it's part of what these men and women do," said Acevedo. "They know when they become police officers that this is ultimately the sacrifice they are willing to make."
Public Information Officer Anthony Hipolito said they got a 911 call at 2:20 a.m. of an intoxicated person wandering around the store. The officer who was killed was the first to arrive at the scene eight minutes after being dispatched to Walmart.
Timeline of events
- 2:20 a.m.: Walmart employee reports that a man who was intoxicated is wandering around the store
- 2:21 a.m.: Officers are dispatched
- 2:29 a.m.: First officer arrives
- 2:44 a.m.: Officer is pronounced dead
Witnesses were able to call for help through Padron's police radio, saying he had been shot. Another officer arrived and took the suspect into custody after Walmart employees were able to take him down and disarm him.
The backup officer began administering CPR to the fallen officer.
"Despite the valiant efforts of our officer who started CPR, and EMS, the officer succumb to his injury and was pronounced at the scene at 2:44 a.m.," Acevedo said.
At the Walmart, onlookers witnessed the poignant scene of dozens of the fallen officer's colleagues dressed in blue lined up on both sides of a police vehicle and ambulance in front of the store, standing in salute when the officer's body was loaded into the vehicle and taken away.
Familiar with the strong ties of a tight-knit police family, Travis County sheriff's deputies arrived at the scene around 5:30 a.m. to offer their condolences to the department.
The deadly shooting April 6 came seven hours after another officer-involved shooting in East Austin that ended in the death of a suspect and the officer involved hospitalized with injuries. The shootings are two completely separate incidents.
"Imagine two officer-involved shootings in one night," said Acevedo . "Our city is changing, and we just have to understand that we have to be cautious, and we have to be aware that as we continue to grow we are going to have challenges."
Fallen officer in 2004
It has been eight years since an Austin police office died in the line of duty. Amy Donovan was killed in October 2004 after being hit by a patrol car.
Donovan was on foot chasing Nicholas Jarmon when her rookie partner accidentally struck her with their patrol car.
Because of Donovan's death, APD changed its rookie policy so that two rookie officers are not working together.
In 2009, the Legislature considered enacting stronger penalties for those who run from police, but the measure did not pass.
The plaque is one of 20 markers put up around Austin to honor fallen officers.
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