A jury on Wednesday acquitted a Texas man who was accused of fatally shooting the drunk driver who had just caused an accident that killed his two sons. Prosecutors alleged that David Barajas had left the scene where his sons were dying in order to retrieve a gun that he then used to shoot Jose Banda, 20, to death in vengeance. Barajas cried after the verdict and embraced his wife, Cindy. He would have faced life in prison, if convicted. 20-year-old Jose Banda had plowed into Barajas and his two sons who were pushing a truck on a road near their home. The Barajas’ car had run out of gas. 12-year-old David Jr. and 11-year-old Caleb were killed. The defense had argued to the jury that Barajas didn’t kill Banda, he was too focused on saving his sons. The gun was never found and there was little physical evidence at the crash scene.
Barajas told reporters after the verdict that he hopes to move forward and find closure, “This was a loss for everybody. Not only did I lose my two sons, [the Bandas] lost a son too.”
Brazoria County District Attorney Jeri Yenne told the media that she had no regrets about the case and is still convinced that Barajas acted as a vigilante.
Authorities alleged that Barajas, 32, went home, which was only 100 yards from the crash, retrieved a gun and returned to shoot Banda. Legal experts attributed the acquittal to jury sympathy, perhaps jury nullification. Many people, who believed Barajas committed the crime, supported him stating that they understood his anger. Barajas however, maintains his innocence. There were no witnesses to the shooting and gunshot residue tests done on Barajas came back negative.
Investigators told the jury that a bullet fragment found in Banda’s car probably came from a .357-caliber gun and that the same ammunition was found in Barajas’ home with an empty holster. The defense told the jury that Barajas never owned a gun and that the bullet fragment was so damaged a definitive caliber could not be determined. Prosecution experts also testified that blood found on Banda’s car door and arm rest were consistent with Barajas.
Defense attorney Sam Cammack told the jury that the actual shooter was probably a member of Banda’s family, perhaps his cousin or half-brother. Both men told investigators they were at the crash scene, but fled before authorities arrived. Both men also maintain their innocence. Prosecution witnesses told the jury that more gunfire was reported after the Banda shooting and that a search of Barajas’ home yielded no physical evidence showing that he had returned there to retrieve a gun.