Con: Capital murder demands execution
March 24, 2013 at 10:03 p.m.
Updated March 24, 2013 at 10:25 p.m.
Victor Billings was 60 years old when he was gunned down defending his wife in an armed robbery.
A former Jackson County chief deputy, Billings was with his wife at the Action Amusement Center on North John Stockbauer Drive when John Manuel Quintanilla Jr. shot him three times Nov. 24, 2002.
Quintanilla, who also shot and injured another patron in the store, was sentenced to death by Judge Robert C. Cheshire in 2004.
After exhausting the appeals process, Quintanilla's execution date was recently set by the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for July 16, 2013.
The news was welcomed in Jackson County, said Sheriff A. J. "Andy" Louderback.
"I think anyone convicted of our capital murder statue here in Texas should receive the death penalty," Louderback said. "We have to have that here; I believe that is like the line in the sand."
Victoria County District Attorney Steve Tyler has been working with the state to set the date and notify both Quintanilla's and Billings' families.
"I think the death penalty was suitable. If you go through the process and the jury thinks that is appropriate, then due process has been served according to our laws. And I support that," Tyler said about the death penalty.
He said the process must be respected.
"His appeal process, both state and federal, has been exhausted," Tyler said. "I think being extra careful is what expected when someone is seeking an execution."
Still, Victoria County Sheriff T. Michael O'Connor said there is always the possibility of convicting an innocent man.
"Then they find out years later that in fact the person was innocent by nature on discovery and that is an extremely unfortunate circumstance, but nothing is fail-proof," O'Connor said.
Despite the risk, he said the death penalty serves as a vital means for obtaining justice in society.
O'Connor said he also believes the death penalty is a deterrent.
Proving otherwise is difficult, he said, because statistics on the death penalty and crime are difficult to correlate and are often subjective.
"I wish they would bring the rope (execution by hanging) back, because then you demonstrate the severity of the crime by the penalty of death. I think that is the ultimate punishment, and I think people should take note to it," O'Connor said. "I am old school, and I feel there is definitely a need or an aspect that is necessary to keep it in place."
Even though the death penalty cannot bring Billings back, Louderback said, it can bring some closure to the family and the community.
A set date is a step in the right direction, Louderback said, but it is far from enough for the victims.
"Before Victor's life is going to have closure, the execution will have to occur," he said.