HOUSTON (CN) — A Houston man whose mental illness prevented prosecutors from proving in court that he shot a sheriff’s officer to death pleaded guilty to capital murder Wednesday and was sentenced to life in prison.
Shannon Miles’ life sentence without possibility of parole came two days before his 33rd birthday and ensures he will not face the death penalty for the August 2015 murder of Harris County sheriff’s Officer Darren Goforth.
Goforth, 47, was shot more than a dozen times from behind on Aug. 28, 2015 as he filled up his cruiser at a Houston gas station. The gas station’s surveillance cameras recorded the murder, and Miles was arrested the next day.
Harris County state judge Susan Brown found Miles, who is schizophrenic, incompetent in February 2016 after doctors working for both the Harris County District Attorney’s Office and his defense team agreed he did not understand the capital murder charge he was facing.
Brown ordered him sent to a state mental hospital for 120 days, but he had to wait for months for a spot to open up at North Texas State Hospital, 170 miles northwest of Fort Worth.
Brown found Miles competent to stand trial in March this year and he pleaded not guilty.
Miles’s attorney Anthony Osso told reporters that Miles doesn’t remember killing Goforth due to his severe mental illness, and prosecutors said Miles’s mental health gave them little chance of getting a death sentence.
Miles’s plea deal means his case will not get the made-for-TV trial that was expected after Goforth’s murder made international headlines, and a woman told investigators she was Goforth’s mistress, she witnessed his murder, and she was meeting with him at the gas station.
Osso told reporters in 2016 that if he could prove Goforth was not at the gas station in his official capacity as a police officer, then Miles’s capital murder charge could be reduced to murder, which could have saved him from the death penalty.
Former Harris County Sheriff Ron Hickman fired two sheriff’s officers, one in October 2015 and another in early February 2016, for having sexual relations with Goforth’s alleged mistress. One of the fired officers was assigned to investigate Goforth’s murder.
Hickman fired a third deputy on Feb. 12, 2016, for sending the same woman emails soliciting her for sex.
Miles’s long history of mental illness complicated the case.
In 2010 he was committed to a mental hospital for 48 hours after an incident in Harris County in which the sheriff’s department determined they needed to do an involuntary commitment, Osso told reporters in December 2015.
After the Travis County District Attorney’s Office charged Miles with aggravated assault for an April 2012 incident at a homeless shelter, in which he reportedly fought over a TV remote control, a judge found Miles incompetent and he spent several months at a state mental hospital.
The Harris County Criminal Courthouse is closed due to damage from Hurricane Harvey, so Miles’s Wednesday hearing was held in a courtroom on the uppermost, 17th floor of the neighboring civil courthouse, where law enforcement officers from numerous agencies filled the gallery.
“Deputy Goforth served the residents of Harris County for nearly a decade. He will always be remembered for his service, his bravery, and his sacrifice. Today, the Goforth family and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office family are pleased to learn that justice will be served upon Deputy Goforth’s killer,” Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said in a statement.
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