Killer of SAPD officer dodges death sentence
JOURDANTON — After learning that the jury in the Shaun Puente capital murder trial was hopelessly deadlocked after two days of deliberations on punishment, District Judge Donna Rayes on Friday sentenced the confessed killer of San Antonio Police Department officer Robert Deckard to life in prison without parole.
The Atascosa County jury had been deliberating since noon Thursday. They were not polled individually by the judge about their votes, and they left the courthouse without speaking to the media.
“I’m not heartbroken abut this,” said Deckard’s uncle, Fred Williams, a daily attendee at the trial. “Puente can’t be a menace to society any longer. Even if he had gotten the death penalty, there would not have been any closure. That’s a comfort word. We all have to move on with our lives, but I will never call it closure.”
District Attorney Audrey Louis had told jurors before they began deliberating the sentence Thursday that Puente, 36, deserved to die for shooting Deckard by repeatedly firing a pistol out the back window of a car as police pursued him in Atascosa County. He had robbed four small businesses at gunpoint in the space of two weeks and had a history of violence toward two former wives, testimony showed.
His girlfriend, Jenevieve Ramos, was driving the getaway car on Dec. 8, 2013, and also was charged with capital murder. Prosecutors did not immediately comment on what effect Rayes’ decision Friday would have on their plans to try Ramos.
Deckard, 31, was hit in the forehead and died 13 days later, leaving a wife and two children.
Defense attorney Anna Jimenez wiped away tears as she spoke about the verdict.
“First and foremost, my condolences go out to the Deckard family for all that they have gone through,” said Jimenez, a public defender who has worked on more than a dozen death penalty cases. “We appreciate what the jury has done. They were not going to move on their personal decisions, and I respect that.”
Jimenez speculated, without having spoken to any jurors, that they may have had difficulty getting past the first of three issues the judge instructed them to decide before they could reach a death penalty — would Puente pose a continuing threat to society if ever released.
Defense lawyers had offered witnesses to document Puente’s childhood of poverty, abuse and neglect and his adulthood as a low-functioning sixth-grade dropout and methamphetamine addict. His jailers acknowledged Puente became cooperative and stopped violently resisting authority after his incarceration prevented further drug use.
Having convicted Puente last month, the jury began deliberating his punishment at midday Thursday, with death by lethal injection or life in prison without parole their only options.
Bruce Selcraig is a San Antonio Express-News staff writer. | BSelcraig@express-news.net