“Trucker in Texas Smuggling Case Unlikely to Face Death, Former Prosecutors Say”
After the doors to trucker James Matthew Bradley Jr.’s sweltering tractor-trailer were finally thrown open in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in San Antonio, 10 people would be found to have died as a result of their harrowing ride inside.
Richard Roper, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas who served from 2004 to 2008 and sent two men to death row for a deadly kidnapping case in the late 1990s, notes that any decision to seek the death penalty for Bradley would not be for Durbin to make on his own.
According to U.S. Department of Justice protocol, U.S. attorneys may recommend whether to try a defendant for the death sentence. But that decision must be vetted by a DOJ death-penalty review committee and the ultimate decision to try a defendant for capital punishment rests with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“The U.S. attorney will not be the only one to make that decision. And who knows what Sessions will do, if he’s even there,” Roper said, noting the recent tensions between the attorney general and President Donald Trump.
But Roper believes that whether the federal government tries Bradley for the death penalty will ultimately hinge on whether prosecutors can prove he intended to kill the immigrants he is accused of transporting illegally.
“It’s going to come down to whether or not he only disregarded their risk but wanted them to die,” Roper said. “I think you’d have to show that, and I don’t think you can.”