A Texas jury on Wednesday acquitted a father who was accused of shooting and killing a drunk driver that just moments before had caused an accident that killed the man’s two sons.
Prosecutors argued that David Barajas murdered 20-year-old Jose Banda after Banda slammed into the back of a truck that Barajas and his sons were pushing up a road just yards away from their Alvin, Texas home. The December 2012 crash killed 12-year-old David Jr. and 11-year-old Caleb Barajas.
Investigators alleged that, after the accident, Barajas walked about 100 yards to his home, retrieved a gun and returned to the crash site where he shot Banda in the head.
“He was the only one standing around Jose Banda's vehicle when the gunshot was fired,” Brazoria County detective Dominick Sanders told Fox 26 months after the incident.
Legal experts noted before the trial that the prosecution would have to overcome not only jury sympathy for a defendant who lost two sons, but a lack of physical evidence as well. Although an empty holster and bullets matching the type of bullet that killed Banda were found in the Barajas home, no murder weapon was ever found. Tests for gunpowder residue on Barajas also came back negative, according to The Associated Press.
Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne told reporters after the trial she was comfortable with having pursued the case.
"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,” she said.
Yenne also said she remained convinced that Barajas was the one who perpetrated that execution.
“We believe that Mr. Barajas committed the crime and we also know the jury did not believe that beyond a reasonable doubt. We respect that,” she said, according to NBC News.
An emotional Barajas said he was relieved the trial was over but he remained scarred by the whole experience.
“I thank God. This has been hard on me and my family,” he said. “It's been a lot of weight lifted but I'm still very hurt.”
Barajas said he was praying for Banda’s family.
"They lost a son, too,” he said.