Denton County jury rejects the death penalty

For the second time this year, a Texas jury has rejected the death penalty in a capital murder trial. Today, after several hours of deliberation, a Denton County sentenced Daniel Greco to life without the possibility of parole after finding him guilty of capital murder. According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, the jury responded “no” on the question of future dangerousness, finding that Greco would not be a violent threat to other inmates in Texas prison.

Denton County prosecutors had sought the death penalty for Greco, a resident of Little Elm who was convicted on September 18 of the murder of a pregnant woman, Anjanette Kristina Harris, in 2016. It was the first time that District Attorney Paul Johnson had sought the death penalty since the 2011 case of Tony Burrell.  In 2014, Burrell pled guilty to capital murder and was sentenced to life without parole. 

DA Johnson’s decision to seek a death sentence is expected to come as a major expense to the county, since Greco is an indigent defendant. Greco is represented by Derek Adame, the only attorney in Denton County eligible to represent indigent clients in capital cases. In death penalty cases in 2002 and 2003, Adame filed pretrial motions asking that the death sentence be dropped because of the county’s ability to outspend him. According to Adame, “The DA’s office gets to spend however…much money they want to spend in a death penalty case, and taxpayers are going to foot the bill.” 

Greco’s trial was postponed twice. Jury selection took two months over the summer.

Denton County juries have sentenced seven people to death, six of whom have been executed (the last person executed from Denton County was Steven Woods in 2011).  The death sentence of one individual was reduced to life in the early 1980s.  

Earlier this year, a Nueces County jury rejected the death penalty for Arturo Garza; he pled guilty to killing his pregnant girlfriend, Susanna Eguia, in 2015 and was sentenced to life without parole.

One person – Gary David Green – has been sentenced to death in Texas this year. He was convicted of killing Upton County deputy Billy “Bubba” Kennedy, Jr. in a trial that was moved from Upton County to Nueces County.

Texas juries imposed seven new death sentences in 2018.