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Trial of Texas father raises legal, moral issues

Published on NewsOK Modified: August 17, 2014 at 12:30 pm •  Published: August 17, 2014

ANGLETON, Texas (AP) — David Barajas denies killing a drunk driver in a fit of rage after his two sons were fatally struck in 2012 on a rural road in Southeast Texas.

His defense attorney says Barajas is a good man, a grieving father and not a murderer. At the same time, his defense hasn't publicly suggested who else might be responsible for Jose Banda's shooting death.

Barajas' trial is set to begin Monday in a case with many complexities: No weapon was recovered, no witnesses identified him as the shooter and many in Barajas' community have strongly sympathized with him, with some saying they might have taken the law into their own hands if faced with a similar situation.

Legal experts acknowledge prosecutors could face a greater challenge than simply proving who committed the shooting, similar to another Texas case from 2012 in which a grand jury declined to indict a father who killed a man who molested his child.

"It's not the right way to do it, but jurors a lot of times make judgments based on moral responsibility, not legal responsibility," said Joel Androphy, a Houston defense attorney who isn't connected to the case.

The trial will focus on prosecutors' allegations that Barajas shot 20-year-old Banda in the head in December 2012 near Alvin, about 30 miles southeast of Houston. Minutes earlier, Banda's car struck Barajas' sons as they pushed the family's broken-down truck down a dark, narrow road just 50 yards from their home. Twelve-year-old David Jr. died at the scene; 11-year-old Caleb died at a hospital.

If convicted of murder, Barajas faces up to life in prison.

Many in the community have rallied around the 32-year-old father, including setting up a Facebook page called "Free David Barajas," which details fundraising events and where individuals have expressed their support.

But Banda's family says their loved one's fate should have been decided by the justice system and no one else.

"What (Barajas) did wasn't right," said Felicia Leija, 22, Banda's common-law wife. The couple has a 2-year-old daughter, Alisa, who was born a few months before the crash. "For other people to say they would have done the same thing ... you don't know what you would have done."

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