Scott Henson had the chance to speak to Danalynn Recer, one of the atrtorneys for Juan Quntero, whose life without parole sentence for the murder of HPD Officer Rodney Johnson has generated a lot of anger. I found this to be the most interesting bit:
Recer said they'd tried unsuccessfully to convince the state to agree to a plea and avoid an expensive, drawn-out and unnecessary trial. She was roundly criticized for releasing that information to the media, which reinforced her inclination, she said, simply to tell the press nothing at all. Recer said the proffer had been discussed in open court as well as written pleadings, and the fact it had been made wasn't privileged.
In any event, the time came when Quintero's lawyers got a meeting with the Harris County DA's Office, where they hoped to present most of the mitigation evidence that later went to the jury. She was amazed, she said, the state's lawyers didn't just shut up and listen to their opponent's case, even if they intended to go to trial. After all, the defense presentation amounted to "free discovery." But Chuck Rosenthal, himself representing the office at the meeting, was openly dismissive that anything could mitigate the crime, shutting down discussion before she'd even laid out her evidence. If he'd let the meeting continue, she said, at least they "would have known what's coming."
Recer believes the verdict reflects changing public attitudes generally toward the death penalty, as well as changes in the law. The Legislature's decision to make LWOP the only alternative to a death sentence played a big role in the jury's verdict, she thinks. But their experience in voir dire makes her believe the pendulum may be swinging away from more punitive public attitudes in the '90s.