HOUSTON — A man accused of fatally shooting a Texas sheriff's deputy at a gas station pleaded guilty Wednesday to capital murder and accepted a sentence of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
The plea by Shannon Miles, of Houston, allowed him to avoid a possible death sentence for the August 2015 slaying of Darren Goforth. The 47-year-old Harris County sheriff's deputy was shot 15 times while at a suburban Houston gas station where he was putting fuel in his patrol car.
Prosecutors had said Miles ambushed Goforth, a deputy for 10 years, simply because he was a law enforcement officer.
Miles, who turns 33 on Friday, has a history of mental health issues, initially was found incompetent and spent several months at a state hospital since his arrest days after Goforth's death. Doctors later determined him competent and a judge ruled him competent to stand trial.
Brett Ligon, a special prosecutor brought in to handle the case, said Miles' mental health issues "weighed quite heavily on me." He said he was confident in getting a conviction and death sentence but believed the likelihood of Miles being executed was "zero" because of his mental issues. Instead, life without parole meant justice for Goforth's wife, Kathleen, and two children, he said.
"I would say there's not a single one of you or anybody in your family that would want the beat down that is life without parole," Ligon, who is district attorney in nearby Montgomery County, told reporters. "You die nameless. You die faceless. And you die an anonymous death. That is the beat down that is life without parole.
"I've executed people and I've put then on life without parole. And I tell you, neither one of those is a good option," he added. "They both suck if you're the defendants. And that's what I want. The ultimate suck. And he got the ultimate suck."
Ligon said when he presented the plea idea to Goforth's wife, she "said it was a no-brainer."
"It took me by surprise," he said.
Under terms of the plea, Miles also waives any appeals.
"We think it's a just outcome taking into consideration all the evidence and circumstances in the case," Miles' lawyer, Anthony Osso, said.
He also said Miles "accepted responsibility when he entered his plea of guilty."
The seemingly senseless slaying prompted outrage in Houston and spurred an outpouring of support for police.
At a news conference, Kathleen Goforth held up what she said were the last photos of her husband with her and their children. They were taken during a mini-vacation shortly before his death.
"Mine and Darren's two children have been spared," she said of the plea, her voice shaking at times. "They will not have the backdrop of their lives for the next 10 to 25 years being court dates, trials and appeals. ... Nor will they be accosted by ... the image of the man who so violently ended their father's life. They won't have that inflicted upon them.
"And that is merciful and compassionate and the right thing to do."
She described her husband as "a really good dad."
"That's how I want him remembered, as a man who loved his family," she said.
Ligon was named special prosecutor after the Harris County district attorney, Kim Ogg, asked to be recused because her chief of staff while in private practice represented two witnesses who could testify on Miles' behalf.