Juan Leonardo Quintero had predicted that he would be sent to the death chamber for shooting Houston police officer Rodney Johnson. “I was wrong,” he said yesterday from jail a day after he was sentenced to life in prison without chance of parole, reports the Houston Chronicle. It was a verdict that outraged Johnson’s family and local law enforcement but served as a victory for death penalty opponents in a county that has sent more people to Texas’ death row than any other.
The verdict also reignited debate about illegal immigration, as Quintero had been deported before he sneaked back into the United States. It was not the first time a person was convicted of capital murder of a peace officer has avoided the death penalty in Harris County. Since 1990, at least nine men have been sentenced to death in police officer slayings. At least four others have been sentenced to life in prison.