Officer's widow fights for death sentence again

October 9, 2009 3:23:31 PM PDT
A convicted cop killer, once sentenced to death, may now see his life spared. On Friday, the widow of Houston police officer James Irby talked about the appeals court decision to throw out Carl Wayne Buntion's death sentence. Accompanied by her now grown children, Maura Irby still can't believe she's going to relive her husband's brutal murder almost 20 years ago.

"It really came out of left field," she said. "We've been hoping, expecting and praying for an execution date and not to be going through the trial process again."

Buntion was convicted of shooting and killing Irby. He was sentenced to death, but recently, an appeals court threw out the punishment phase of his conviction, meaning the Harris County District Attorney's Office will have to re-try the punishment portion of the case.

"In reality, it's almost like the whole trial all over again," said 1st Assistant District Attorney Jim Leitner. "You have to pick a jury exactly the same way, and you have to put on the evidence of guilt and innocence, so the jury knows what they're dealing with. So it'll be just about the same as any other capital murder case where the death penalty is being sought."

The Irby family is relieved to learn that the district attorney will once again seek the death penalty because if Buntion was to be sentenced for life, he would be eligible for parole because of the way state laws were written back in 1990.

Officer Irby's widow isn't backing down.

"We will be here for every motion, every meeting," she said." We're going to be communication regularly with the DA's office."

The trial will be painful, but for Cody Irby, who followed in his father's footsteps and also became a police officer, it is a critical step in the right direction.

"Obviously, it's big hurdle in our lives once again, but as a law enforcement officer I have to have faith in the judicial system that it will overcome," said Cody.

The DA's office says they don't have a timeline yet for the punishment phase. That depends on the attorney who is appointed to Buntion.

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