COVID-19 delays death penalty decision for man accused of killing DPS trooper

The deadline for the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office to announce whether it will seek the death penalty against the man accused of killing a state trooper came and went Monday without a decision.

This is because the March 30 deadline set by state District Judge Letty Lopez on Feb. 26 occurring before COVID-19 was first confirmed in the United States and after the March 16 meeting of the Hidalgo County Board of Judges, which set in place numerous restrictions on court activity meant to mitigate the large crowds of people that gather at the courthouse.

Those precautions have resulted in limited opportunities for Victor Godinez’s defense attorneys to meet with the 24-year-old man for safety reasons, according to an unopposed motion for continuance his counsel filed last Friday.

Godinez is charged with capital murder of a peace officer and two counts of attempted capital murder of a peace officer for shooting Texas Department Public of Safety trooper Moises Sanchez, 48, on April 6, 2019, as well as shooting at two Edinburg police officers after a traffic stop.

Sanchez died months later on Aug. 24, 2019, following surgery in Houston.

In the motion, Godinez’s attorneys argued they need more time to review a large volume of discovery that includes documents, videos, reports and medical records. The discovery needs to be reviewed to assist the attorneys in formulating the most effective course of action and defense strategy, the motion stated.

“ Due to concerns regarding the corona Virus pandemic, Defense Counsel efforts to review and interact with Defendant have been limited for the safety of all parties,” according to the motion.

Godinez’s defense counsel also said in the motion that they need more time to continue plea negotiations with the state.

Hidalgo County District Attorney Ricardo Rodriguez confirmed Tuesday that Lopez, the presiding judge in the case, granted the motion.

Godinez, who has entered not guilty pleas to the charges, remains jailed on $3 million in bonds.

The man 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.

Sanchez underwent intense rehabilitation that included multiple surgeries before he died.

The man is also accused of shooting at two Edinburg police officers in the 1500 block of South Maltese in Edinburg during a manhunt that ended with Godinez’s arrest east of Mon Mack Road and State Highway 107.

Those officers were not hit, and authorities have said they recovered a .357 magnum police believe Godinez used in the shooting.

Godinez’s next hearing is scheduled for late May.