Jury convicts teenager in state trooper’s slaying
COVINGTON (AP) — A trial jury took just over a half-hour Wednesday to convict a Texas teenager of first-degree murder in the death of a Tennessee state trooper.
Alejandro Gauna, 18, of Aus-tin was convicted of shooting Trooper Calvin Jenks during a routine traffic stop on a rural highway about 40 miles north of Memphis on Jan. 6, 2007.
The jury was scheduled to return to court Thursday to decide on a sentence for Guana who faces a maximum sentence of life in prison with no parole or with the chance of parole after 51 years.
Authorities say Jenks was shot twice with a .25-caliber pistol from a distance of about one foot after he said he smelled marijuana and leaned into the car in which Gauna was a passenger.
The shooting was captured on video from a camera in the trooper’s patrol car, and members of his family broke into sobs as the tape was shown to the jury. Jenks had been married for about three months before his death, the jury was told.
“He was a real person,” prosecutor Neal Oldham said in his closing arguments for the trial which began Monday. “He was 24 years old. His name was Calvin. He was a brother, a son, and though he only had the title for a little bit, he was a husband.”
Defense lawyer Blake Ballin called no witnesses and told the jury his client shot the trooper. But Ballin said the killing did not amount to first-degree murder because Gauna fired his gun in a panic and had not planned the shooting.
“He was scared. He was high. He was 17 years old,” Ballin said.
Jurors had the option of convicting Gauna of several lesser offenses including second-degree murder or even negligent homicide.
Authorities said Gauna and his companion, Orlando Garcia, also of Austin, were in Tennessee hoping to sell marijuana they had brought with them from Texas.
Garcia, 20, the driver of the car in which Gauna was the only passenger, was convicted in December of facilitation to first-degree murder in Jenks death and faces 15 to 25 years in prison.
Oldham described Gauna as a “cold and calculated killer” who waited to fire until Jenks was off balance, with no chance of defending himself.
“He waited and waited and waited then sprung his trap and struck at close range,” Oldham said.
In Nashville, the highway patrol issued a statement saying that hopefully the verdict “brings some sense of satisfaction to those who loved a fine young man and a dedicated trooper who gave his life in the line of duty.”
Published in The Messenger 5.15.08