Texas teen draws life for murder
COVINGTON (AP) — After the jury deadlocked, a judge sentenced a Texas teenager convicted of murdering a Tennessee state trooper during a traffic stop to life in prison with a chance at parole in 51 years.
Alejandro Gauna, 18, was convicted Wednesday of first-degree murder for shooting Trooper Calvin Jenks, 24, in January 2007 while the Austin teenager was on a marijuana selling trip to Tennessee. The sentencing hearing resumed Thursday.
Gauna apologized to Jenks’ family Thursday morning, saying “I was a stupid kid who made a stupid mistake.”
The jury had two choices on a sentence — life in prison or life in prison without parole.
“I know a lot of y’all won’t forgive me,” Gauna said to the jury. “I want you to know that I do care and that I have to live with this the rest of my life.”
Jurors could not decide, leaving Judge Joseph Walker to issue the only sentence available to him — life in prison with a possibility of parole. In Tennessee, only a jury is able to hand down a sentence of life without parole.
Gauna and a companion, Orlando Garcia, also of Austin, were in Tennessee looking for customers to buy marijuana when Jenks was killed on a rural highway about 40 miles north of Memphis. Gauna was convicted of shooting Jenks twice in the head as the officer leaned into a car he had stopped for speeding, saying he smelled marijuana.
Garcia was convicted in December of facilitation to first-degree murder and faces a sentence of 15 to 25 years in prison. A video of the shooting taken by a camera in Jenks’ cruiser showed Garcia standing at the back of the officer’s car when the fatal shots were fired.
Jenks’ wife, Sarah Beth Jenks, told the jury she and her husband were married three months before he was killed.
“Calvin was one of the best people I’ve ever known,” she said. “He was so caring and sensitive.”
Gauna, in his remarks on the stand, said: “I never meant for this to happen.”
Norm Jenks, the trooper’s brother, was unforgiving.
“He’s a calloused individual,” he said.
Published in The Messenger 5.16.08