11/14/2007

Man faces death penalty in Tex. officer's death

The Houston Chronicle

FORT WORTH, Texas — A man who gunned down a police officer two years ago was convicted Tuesday of capital murder and now faces the death penalty.

Jurors deliberated four hours before convicting Stephen Lance Heard, 41, nearly two years to the day that Officer Hank Nava was shot in the head. He had gone with other officers to a mobile home looking for Heard, who was wanted for a parole violation.

Defense attorneys had told jurors that Heard did not know that Nava, who was dressed in plain clothes that day, was a police officer. Mark Daniel and Tim Moore claimed that Heard did not hear his girlfriend announce that police were coming in and then fired in self-defense after officers fired 34 shots.

Daniel told jurors that police and prosecutors were under pressure to hold someone responsible and punish them harshly because an officer was killed.

"There are no winners, but if you follow the law and what the evidence shows you, the law wins. And if the law wins, we all win," Daniel told jurors during closing arguments, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in its online edition Tuesday.

But prosecutors said Heard watched police walk up to the trailer and intentionally started shooting when Nava, 39, opened the bedroom door. They reminded jurors that, after the gunfire stopped, Heard ran to a nearby home and held a woman hostage for three hours.

Prosecutor Alan Levy said there was nothing unlawful about the officers' actions that day.

"Since when are officers not entitled, when they see a drug addict with a loaded revolver, to draw their weapon?" Levy said.

The punishment phase of the trial is to begin Wednesday, The Dallas Morning News reported in its Tuesday online edition.

Copyright 2007 The Houston Chronicle

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