Brandon Daniel walked into a Travis County courtroom Monday morning, more than 18 months after police say he shot and killed Austin police officer Jaime Padron. The 26-year-old pleaded not guilty to capital murder.
"Any time a police officer is killed in the line of duty I think it's an important case to society," said Travis County Assistant District Attorney Bill Bishop. "It's our goal to present all the evidence to the jury and let them decide."
Prosecutors have been working on the case for more than a year and will try to prove that Daniel should be given the death penalty. Daniel's attorneys have also been preparing to defend their client.
"We have investigators working on the case. We have mental health experts working on the case and other experts working on the case," defense attorney Russell Hunt told reporters.
In April 2012, police say officer Padron responded to a 9-1-1 call at a north Austin Walmart where he got into a confrontation with an intoxicated Daniel and was shot. A few days later, thousands paid their respects to Padron by attending his funeral service and lining the streets of Austin along the procession route.
"I think it's important because of what it meant to the community when it happened," Bishop said, referring to this case going to trial. "I think the outpouring when it happened made it pretty clear that it meant a lot to this community. I think to take it away from this community would be to deprive them of the opportunity to show it does mean that much."
Daniel's attorneys were hoping to settle the case, even agreeing to life in prison without parole.
"We were actually really surprised that there was just no possibility to work this case out. This, to us, appears to be a case that could be worked out, that...it doesn't look to us like a typical death penalty case," Hunt said.
He has told reporters that Daniel is remorseful and believes he would not be a future harm to others.
"It's not up to defense lawyers or prosecutors," said Bishop. "It's up to 12 people who live in this county to decide if that's appropriate or not appropriate."
Monday, January 6, the jury selection process will begin and is expected to take several weeks. Opening arguments in the case are set for February 18. If Daniel is found guilty, he faces life in prison or the death penalty.