Eyewitness has to relive murder scene over

October 6, 2009 8:52:35 PM PDT
The eyewitness to the cold-blooded murder of a Houston police officer nearly 20 years ago is reliving the scene all over again, nearly a week after the killer's punishment was thrown out. Harris County prosecutors want Carl Wayne Buntion back here in Houston, the same place where he murdered Houston Police Officer Jim Irby back in 1990, because Buntion's death sentence was thrown out last week because of improper jury instructions.

We've learned the District Attorney's office requested a bench warrant Tuesday for the return of Carl Wayne Buntion to Harris County. He's been on death row since 1991. As prosecutors get ready for a new punishment trial against him, eyewitness Richard Castillo is getting ready to see Buntion again.

Richard Castillo remembers June 27, 1990, well.

"I didn't think anybody who witnessed something like that would forget," said Castillo.

That's a good thing. He may soon be asked, under oath, to recall the deadly police officer shooting that for almost 20 years has made him look at routine police traffic stops differently.

"Every time I see a police officer stopping a car, I take a long look," said Castillo.

Castillo watched as Buntion shot Officer Jim Irby first in the forehead and then several more times before running away. Within seconds, Castillo grabbed the officer's gun and held Buntion's partner at gunpoint. Once Buntion was in custody, he soon had to point a finger.

"I said, 'Yeah, that's him,'" said Castillo.

Which made him an important part of the case back then.

"I was the number one eyewitness," said Castillo.

And an important part now. Last week, an appeals court ruled Buntion should get a new punishment phase of his trial, and the second time around he could get as little as life with parole, out in 15 years.

"I would be looking over my shoulder if he got out," said Castillo.

The District Attorney's office says it will seek the death penalty again. In a mini-trial of sorts, Castillo will likely end up back on the stand. He had hoped what is memorialized in a picture on his wall would never be testimony again, but he says he's ready and wants the same verdict.

"He is a menace to society he needs to unfortunately be put away get the death sentence. It's hard to say, but he deserves it," Castillo said.

A spokeswoman for the DA's office told us the new punishment trial will probably happen sometime next spring.

Jim Irby's wife will meet with prosecutors on Friday. She wants assurance that they won't back off the death penalty for Buntion.

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