ANGLETON, Texas (AP) — A southeast Texas man says that despite his acquittal Wednesday for the shooting death of the drunken driver who caused a crash that killed his two sons, there are no winners.
“This was a loss for everybody,” said a visibly relieved David Barajas, who cried and hugged his wife, Cindy, after the verdict was read.
Prosecutors had alleged that Barajas killed 20-year-old Jose Banda in a fit of rage after Banda plowed into Barajas and his sons while they were pushing a truck on a rural Southeast Texas road near their home because it had run out of gas. Twelve-year-old David Jr. and 11-year-old Caleb were killed.
Authorities said that after the accident, Barajas, 32, went to his home about 100 yards from the crash site near Alvin, got a gun and returned to shoot Banda.
Defense attorney Sam Cammack said Barajas didn’t kill Banda and that he was only focused on saving his sons. The gun used to kill Banda wasn’t found and there was little physical evidence linking Barajas to the killing.
The jury deliberated for about three hours Wednesday before acquitting Barajas of murder.
After the verdict, Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne insisted that investigators had correctly zeroed in on Barajas and that the actual killer wasn’t still at large, as Cammack had suggested at trial.
“What the state’s perspective is and will always be is that if you or I or anyone we know had a horrible collision and killed another human being, that you get the fair review of the criminal justice system, not a roadside execution,” Yenne told reporters.
Banda could have been sentenced to up to life in prison, if he had been convicted.
Legal experts said prosecutors also likely had to overcome jury sympathy for Barajas, who had the support of many residents of Alvin, which is about 30 miles southeast of Houston. Further complicating their case was that there were no witnesses who identified Barajas as the shooter, and gunshot residue tests done on Barajas came back negative.
While both sides differed on who might have been responsible for Banda’s death, they agreed that this was a tragedy for everyone involved.