death penalty news—-TEXAS

April 27


DA rejects plea for illegal immigrant who shot officer

Just days before his death penalty trial, attorneys for Juan Leonardo
Quintero said he has offered to plead guilty and be sentenced to life
without parole for the 2006 shooting of Houston police officer Rodney
Johnson a deal prosecutors have rejected.

Quintero's attorney, Danalynn Recer, noted in an e-mail Friday that the
34-year-old illegal immigrant confessed to killing Johnson and cooperated
with authorities. She also said Quintero regrets the toll his actions have
taken on Johnson's family, as well as on his own family.

"He is profoundly ashamed and deeply sorry for the pain he has inflicted
on them," wrote Recer, founder and executive director of a Houston
anti-death penalty organization, Gulf Region Advocacy Center.

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.

Bradley said Quintero is expected to plead not guilty by reason of
insanity when he is formally arraigned at the opening of the trial Monday
in state District Judge Joan Campbell's court.

Because Quintero was in the country illegally at the time of the shooting,
the case has become a rallying cry for those advocating stricter
immigration enforcement.

According to court records, Quintero was convicted of a DWI and received
deferred adjudication for sexual assault of a child before he was deported
in 1999. Once back in the country, Quintero's life collided with Johnson's
during a routine traffic stop on Sept. 21, 2006.

Johnson arrested Quintero for not having a driver's license. As Johnson
worked on a report in the front seat of the patrol car, Quintero, who was
handcuffed and locked in the back seat of the police car, apparently
managed to slip his hands under his legs so he could pull out a pistol
from his waistband that was overlooked in a search. He shot Johnson 4
times in the head, police said.

Police said they found Quintero sitting in the back seat of the police car
behind Johnson's bloodied body. Police said he still had the gun used to
kill the officer.

Opening arguments are expected to fill the courtroom with Johnson's
friends at the police department, including his wife, Joslyn Johnson, who
is also a police officer. The couple had five children.

"A lot of people are going to be there," Johnson said. "He was just so
well-known and well liked."

Johnson spoke about some of her husband's heroics, including pulling
disabled people from a burning building, which netted him a medal of

Johnson said she hopes Quintero is sentenced to die.

"It was just so senseless and tragic," she said.

(source: Houston Chronicle)