Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Update on Juan Quintero Case

The death penalty trial of Juan Leonardo Quintero began in Harris County on Monday, April 28, 2008. According to the Houston Chronicle ("DA rejects plea for illegal immigrant who shot officer," April 27, 2008), Quintero had offered to plead guilty in exchange for a sentence of life without the possible of parole for the 2006 shooting of Houston police officer Rodney Johnson. The offer was rejected by prosecutors:

"Prosecutors on Saturday said the Harris County District Attorneys office has given the defense an opportunity to submit all mitigating evidence and, after reviewing that evidence, prosecutors will continue to seek the death penalty.

'We trust the judgment of 12 citizens to determine the appropriate punishment for the man who executed Officer Johnson,' said Assistant District Attorney Denise Bradley. ..."

In coverage of the first day of testimony, the Chronicle reports that "Defense attorneys agreed that Quintero shot Johnson but said brain damage caused the Mexican citizen to perceive a threat that wasn't there. Quintero pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity in state District Judge Joan Campbell's court.

Johnson had stopped Quintero for speeding and arrested him for not having a driver's license. As Johnson worked on a report in the front seat of his patrol car, Quintero, who was handcuffed and locked in the back seat, pulled a pistol from his waistband that was overlooked in a search. He shot Johnson four times, police said. ...

In her statements, defense attorney Danalynn Recer said a childhood head injury caused Quintero anxiety attacks and staring spells for most of his life. She said Quintero began drinking alcohol when he was 8 and used alcohol to medicate himself.

She said Quintero had been drinking when he was stopped and arrested."
("Outpouring of emotions marks start of testimony," April 29, 2008)
Insanity defenses are rarely successful, as they must demonstrate that the defendant did not know the difference between right and wrong at the time of the crime. So far, there has been little compelling evidence to support an insanity defense in the Quintero case.

An earlier post on the case is available here.

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