Jury deliberates fate of admitted drunk driver

June 8, 2012 9:17:37 AM PDT
A jury is deliberating the punishment of a man who admitted to drinking, driving and killing a Houston police officer one year ago. It has been an emotional trial with sometimes graphic testimony.

Johoan Rodriguez is facing punishment for driving drunk and killing Houston Police Officer Kevin Will in May 2011. Prosecutors say his blood alcohol level measured two hours after the wreck was more than twice the legal limit.

Officer Will was on the North Loop investigating another crash when he was struck at more than 90 miles per hour. Rodriguez pleaded guilty to intoxication manslaughter, but told investigators he didn't remember the moments leading up to the wreck.

Prosecutors paint Rodriguez as selfish and unremorseful, saying they intercepted jail phone conversations between him and his girlfriend during which he only twice ever mentioned the officer or his family, and seemed more concerned about the scar on his own face than anything else.

Rodriguez's attorney is trying to convince the jury still that Officer Will's death was an accident. He begged them not to give Rodriguez life, asking for a sentence of 15 to 25 years.

"He did not intend to kill Officer Will. He made a horrible decision, drank and drove an automobile," defense attorney Rick Detoto told the jury. "But it's not an intentional act. It was an accident."

"Justice, I believe is considered and thoughtful and reasoned, and it is proportionate," prosecutor Catherine Evans explained to the jury. "Justice in this case is life. It is life. Please do justice on this."

Rodriguez sobbed in court as prosecutors concluded their case against him. He actually cried out at one point when prosecutors said Officer Will might still be alive had Rodriguez stayed in Mexico after being deporting for being in the country illegally. Rodriguez seemed to shout out that he had only come back to the US from Mexico to see his sick grandfather.

The jury can give Rodriguez anything from probation to 99 years or life in prison. They can also fine him up to $10,000. To reach a verdict, the jury must unanimously agree on a sentence.

The jury will begin its first day of deliberations Friday, the same day the state of Texas will honor Officer Will posthumously for his bravery during the last few moments of his life. Authorities say Officer Will warned others to get out of the way before he could save himself.

The ceremony will be held at the State Capitol Building in Austin. Two other HPD officer, along with 18 other law enforcement officers statewide, will receive the 2011 State of Texas Law Enforcement Achievement awards.


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