A Houston jury yesterday rejected the death penalty against a man convicted in the murder of a Houston police officer. Instead, the jury gave the man life without parole. The jury’s decision reflects a growing decline nationwide and in Texas in death sentences.
One juror said Juan Leonardo Quintero’s life still has value.
Another said a convicted cop killer, even one in the country illegally, deserves mercy.
Neither sentiment offered much consolation to family members of murdered Houston police officer Rodney Johnson, who were stunned Tuesday when a jury spared Quintero and sent him to prison for life with no chance of parole.
Asked by state District Judge Joan Campbell if he had anything to say before he was sentenced, the 34-year-old Quintero replied, “I’m sorry.”
Johnson arrested the landscaper from Mexico during a Sept. 21, 2006, traffic stop. The 12-year police veteran didn’t notice Quintero was hiding a gun, which, while handcuffed in the patrol car’s back seat, he used to shoot Johnson seven times.
Quintero’s lawyers had argued unsuccessfully that he was criminally insane and incapable of knowing his actions were wrong.
“I believe he has value,” said juror Letty Burkholder, of Houston. “He’s loved by many of his family and friends, and that was number one. I felt like he has potential.”