Court rejects Brandon Daniel appeal in killing of police officer — (The Austin American-Statesman)

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The Austin American-Statesman

Updated: 12:52 p.m. Wednesday, February 10, 2016 |  Posted: 10:50 a.m. Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The state’s highest criminal court Wednesday upheld the conviction and death sentence for Brandon Daniel in the 2012 shooting death of an Austin police officer.

A unanimous Court of Criminal Appeals rejected three points of error raised by Daniel’s lawyer in his direct appeal, the first of two appellate court reviews granted to death row inmates.

Daniel, 28, shot and killed Austin police officer Jaime Padron on April 6, 2012, as the two struggled on the floor of a Wal-Mart near Interstate 35 and East Parmer Lane in North Austin. Padron, a Marine veteran and father of two girls, had been responding to complaints from the store’s employees about a possibly intoxicated shoplifter.

Daniel was quickly arrested, and police found a magazine containing six hollow-point bullets in his pocket and $57 worth of food, alcohol and other store items in his backpack.

Jurors deliberated for an hour before finding Daniel guilty of capital murder in February 2014, and they then needed just eight hours of discussion before sentencing the former software engineer to die.

Writing for the court, Judge Larry Meyers rejected the defense claim that jurors weren’t presented enough evidence to find that Daniel posed a future danger for violence — a required determination for a death sentence — because he had no history of violence and was intoxicated, impaired by Xanax, suffering from depression and had acted without forethought in killing Padron.

“We disagree,” Meyers wrote. “The evidence showed that (Daniel) went to the Wal-Mart intending to shoplift and that he brought a loaded gun” because he had foreseen the possibility of police officers preventing him from leaving the store.

Before the shooting, Daniel demonstrated an escalating pattern of disrespect for the law, Meyers said, noting that he had led Colorado police on a dangerous chase on his motorcycle in 2007. After the shooting, Daniel displayed a lack of remorse, the judge wrote.

“He smiled and laughed after killing Padron, took a bow and raised his fist when inmates applauded him after watching news coverage of his case, and bragged to his mother that he was ‘at the top’ of the ‘prison pecking order’ because of the crime that he had committed. He also discussed plans to escape prison and profit from his crime.” Meyers said.

The appeals court also rejected Daniel’s claims that his trial lawyers weren’t allowed to properly question an expert witness for the prosecution about her qualifications and that the trial judge improperly allowed a juror to join the panel.

A North Austin elementary school has been named for Padron, 40, who had been an Austin police officer for three years after 14 years with the San Angelo Police Department.