Trial underway for man accused of driving drunk and killing a Houston police officer

June 4, 2012 3:11:07 PM PDT
The trial of a man accused of driving drunk and killing a Houston police officer is now underway. But the jury won't have to decide if he's guilty, only his punishment.

Jury selection finished up early Monday afternoon. Seven men and five women have been seated, with one female alternate. Opening statements took place Monday afternoon.

A jury was seated in this case despite the fact that the defendant, Johoan Rodriguez, has already plead guilty to a charge of intoxication manslaughter of a peace officer.

Rodriguez, 27, will still have a trial, but it will proceed straight to the punishment phase. So the jury will not decide guilt, simply the punishment which ranges from 5 to 99 years or life in prison.

The crash which killed HPD Officer Kevin Will happened in late May of 2011. Police say Officer Will was working at a traffic accident on the North Loop when Rodriguez drove through a police blockade, hitting and killing Officer Will. Rodriguez was taken into custody at the scene.

We talked to both sides Monday about the trial before it began.

"The scene was horrific and the devastation to this particular family as well as to an entire police department and community, it can't be totaled," said prosecutor Catherine Evans. "And so for that, not surprisingly, we'll be giving everything we have to the jury and asking them to do justice."

"He did a bad thing. It's an accident, it's a mistake, it's not an intentional act," said defense attorney Rick DeToto. "Unfortunately it was a peace officer. But this is just one part of his life, this is just one night. We're going to show the whole spectrum of his life -- his background, his family, everything he's done, where he's worked -- so this jury can get a full understanding of what they think the appropriate punishment is."

Rodriguez apologized in court Monday afternoon before the beginning of opening statements.

Rodriguez is probation-eligible in the state of Texas. The trial is expected to last at least to the end of the week.

Stay with Eyewitness News and abc13.com for the latest on this story.


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