Judge extends death penalty deadline to March 30

Victor Godinez appears during his arraignment on charges of capital murder of a peace officer in the death of Texas Department of Public Safety Trooper Moises Sanchez in 389th state District Court in the Hidalgo County Courthouse on Monday, Oct, 7, 2019, in Edinburg. (Joel Martinez | jmartinez@themonitor.com)

EDINBURG — State District Judge Letty Lopez granted the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office until March 30 to decide whether to pursue the death penalty against a man accused of the 2019 shooting of a Texas Department of Public Safety trooper who died months later.

Lopez had set a Feb. 6 deadline for the announcement during a December hearing in 24-year-old Victor Alejandro Godinez’s case, but his defense attorneys, O. Rene Flores and Jaime Aleman, along with Assistant District Attorney Joseph Orendain, agreed to ask for the continuance while the parties waited for hospital records from Houston.

Trooper Moises Sanchez died on Aug. 24 following surgery in a Houston hospital related to his recovery from being shot on April 6 after responding to a traffic accident.

The DA’s office has requested records from that hospital and from a Houston rehabilitation center where Sanchez had been making what appeared to be a recovery before dying after the surgery.

After the 48-year-old’s death, the DA’s office indicted Godinez on charges of capital murder of a peace officer and two counts of attempted murder of a peace officer.

He has pleaded not guilty to the charges and remains jailed on $3 million in bonds.

Godinez is accused of shooting Sanchez once in the head and once in the shoulder after the trooper responded to a car crash on North 10th Street and Freddy Gonzalez Drive in McAllen.

He went through intense rehabilitation that included multiple surgeries before succumbing to his injuries in Houston.

Godinez is also accused of shooting at two Edinburg police officers in the 1500 block of South Maltese in Edinburg during an extensive manhunt that ended in his arrest in an area east of Mon Mack Road and State Highway 107.

Those officers were not hit and police recovered a .357 magnum authorities say Godinez used in the shooting.