Brandon Daniel transferred to Death Row

AUSTIN (KXAN) — A week to the day that a jury sentenced Brandon Daniel to death by lethal injection for the April 2012 killing of Senior Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron, officials transferred him to Death Row.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials confirmed Daniel is in the Polunsky Prison in Polk County, Texas, after authorities transferred him on Friday.

In-depth: Capital murder conviction

Jurors — 10 women and two men — found Daniel guilty of capital murder after more than eight hours of deliberations and nine days of testimony.

“You are a coward and I hope you rot in hell,” Johnny Padron, Jaime’s older brother, said in a brief statement to Daniel following the sentence.

Amy Padron, Jaime’s ex-wife, also took the stand after the sentence was handed down, giving an emotion-packed speech where she read letters from her 8 and 12-year-old daughters.

“You made me cry,” one of the letters read. “Now it is your time to cry in prison for the rest of your life.”

“There are so many things you took away,” Matt Baldwin said to Daniel. Baldwin was Padron’s old partner in San Angelo. “I don’t know why you did it. I don’t care. So many lives were destroyed by what you did.

“Any moments of fame you may think you had, I want you to know that you lost,” Baldwin added. “You confirmed Jaime was the winner. Jaime was the hero.”

The weight of the jury’s life-or-death decision was not lost among those in the courtroom.

“You guys had a very difficult task. Your lives will never be the same from here on out,” Linda Diaz, Jaime’s sister, said to the jury. “You were doing your job. Please don’t carry this on your shoulders. You followed the instructions you were given.”

Daniel was remanded into custody to be transferred to The Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

Prosecution’s closing arguments

“He is a future danger, and there is not one good reason not to sentence him to death,” said prosecuting attorney Bill Bishop, ending his argument.

Before closing, Bishop told jurors everything that can be considered to Daniel’s benefit came from him — adding that all of the defense experts only got their information from Daniel himself.

“It cannot be trusted. It is all his grand design,” said Bishop, referencing Daniel trying to find a Xanax and Ambien defense while in jail. “He laid out the clinical words he was supposed to say but he could not explain them.”

Bishop went on to say that Daniel gets his self-worth by taking pictures of himself with a gun, blowing a hole in his ceiling and taking a picture of the damage. Yet, Bishop pointed out that Daniel’s motive for having that gun on April 6, 2012, is still a mystery.

“For 22 months, he has pondered upon that and still cannot give an explanation as to why he took a loaded .380 to Walmart,” said Bishop. “You take a loaded .380 to Walmart to kill somebody, and that is what he did.”

Bishop said Daniel’s intention was not escape or to run away the morning of April 6, 2012.

“His intention was far more sinister,”-said Bishop, describing Daniel readying his weapon as he ran. “This is someone who gains his self-worth through evil that he has done.”

Bishop went on to describe Daniel’s fascination with Columbine and the Boston Marathon bombings.

The life of Jaime Padron was remembered by Assistant District Attorney Gary Cobb.

“In our society, we are critical of police until we need police,” said Cobb who reminded the jury about Padron’s military service in the Marines and his desire to serve the community.

Cobb called the shooting “A cold-blooded assassination” and said Jaime Padron’s two daughters already will be paying a price for the rest of their lives. He said a sentence of life in prison would force them to pay again. In a letter from jail, Daniel wrote he was “living the dream, retired at age 25.” In the patrol car ride after the shooting, he said he at lease would not have to work or pay for food.

“The man murdered your father in cold-blood and you will, as an adult when you start paying taxes, will pay for his room and board,” said Cobb as he posed the scenario. “If that is what passes for justice in this community, we should tear that flag down and blow up this courthouse, because it is wrong.”

Defense’s closing argument

Brad Urrutia took the floor for defense, talking about the Texas sentencing law.

“The next time he leaves prison will be in a coffin,” he said.

Urrutia said Daniel is going to a place where hardened criminals go to do time, not a club with a pool or tennis courts. In addition, Urrutia told the jury there is a pattern of the state trying to deceive the jury.

“They aren’t lying to you,” he said. “They are just trying to hide the truth.”

Urrutia said the alleged list that Daniel kept with jailers’ name on it doesn’t exist or else it would have been introduced as evidence. He continued to say that with all the talk about coded letters, the state never disclosed that, decoded, the letter said, “I love you, mom.”

Urrutia continued on during closing arguments to tear into inmate informant Louis Escalante’s testimony.

“You can’t trust a word that man says,” said Urrutia. “He is a liar … They [the prosecution] got in bed with Mr. Escalante and had to live with his fleas.”

He questioned: “They [the state] wants you to take a man’s life, and they bring you that kind of evidence to do it? … You really, really, should demand better evidence from your DA. It should not be half-truths and innuendo.”

Russell Hunt said Daniel’s life can still produce positives even behind prison walls. He mentioned Daniel’s intelligence and potential that allowed him to become a software engineer at Hewlett-Packard and develop programs still being used today.

“Brandon Daniel has expressed remorse and has responded to psychiatric medication in jail,” Hunt said about the prospect of Daniel’s future in prison.

Daniel’s sister has been sitting two rows behind the defense table for the entire trial and has spent much of it crying. His family may also be considered a mitigating factor.

“This person has value. He has value to others and is loved by others for  a reason.”

The Backstory

During the trial of Areli Escobar, the county’s last death penalty case in 2011, defense attorney Allan Williams said juries for death penalty cases are given almost “God-like power.”

APD Sr. Officer JaimePadron
APD Sr. Officer JaimePadron

In April 2012, Daniel was arrested in the death of Senior Austin Police Officer Jaime Padron who was responding to a disturbance call at the Walmart on Parmer Lane. Employees called police and said Daniel was drunk and trying to steal from the store. When Padron arrived, police say Daniel tried to run and it led to a struggle between the two men. Padron was shot in the neck during the incident.

Seven months later, the Travis County District Attorney’s office announced they would pursue the death penalty for Daniel — something Chief Art Acevedo had immediately pushed for when initially responding to the media in the early morning hours of the shooting inside a North Austin Walmart.

In a county where the death penalty is rarely sought, officials weighed several factors including community outrage over the officer’s killing, the grand funeral procession, the arrangements and the number of people in the community moved over the entire incident.

Although it was ultimately Lehmberg’s decision, it was one the district attorney had to first run through a committee of trusted advisors within her office — people with differing views and some who even oppose the death penalty itself.

GOING IN-DEPTH: Padron’s Service

  • Padron spent 14 years as a police officer in San Angelo.
  • He joined the Austin Police Department just more than three years before he was killed and also served as a police officer at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport as part of the Emergency Management Department that consolidated with APD in 2009
  • Padron, 40, was shot in the neck responding to an early-morning call. Police say store employees subdued Daniel and tried desperately to save Padron’s life.
  • Padron was the first Austin police officer killed on duty since 2004.
  • He is one of 18 APD officers killed in the line of duty. The first dates back to 1875, with the most recent happening in October of last year.

Travis County and the death penalty

According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Travis County has just five inmates on death row.

Hays County has one while Williamson County has none.

By comparison, Bexar County (San Antonio) has 18, Dallas County has 32, Tarrant County (Fort Worth) has 38, and Harris County (Houston) has 95.

Remembered

“Above all else, he was a hero … He is in heaven right now.” — Police Chief Art Acevedo

“Jaime, you will always be with me. Always.  You are my brother.”  — Fellow officer and partner Rahim Kidd

“He was destined to be a leader in our organization, just like he was a leader wherever he went.” — APA President Wayne Vincent

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