EL PASO, Texas (KVIA) -- The presiding juror of the Facundo Chavez capital murder trial opened up to ABC-7 about the deliberation process.
Chavez was found guilty on Aug. 3, 2023 of killing El Paso County Sheriff's Deputy Peter Herrera during a traffic stop in San Elizario on March 22, 2019.
The two-week long trial culminated with the jury ultimately deciding Chavez should receive the death penalty. The last capital murder trial to end in a death sentence in El Paso County was in 2014.
Brooks Vandivort served as the presiding juror, meaning he helped keep the 11 other jurors focused in order to come to a verdict.
"The hardest things (to see) were the body cam and dashcam footage from Deputy Herrera, and the deputies who showed up on scene. Very, very difficult," Vandivort added.
The body and dash cam videos were instrumental to the prosecution's case. The videos from Herrera's cameras showed Chavez pulling the trigger 15 times, hitting Herrera 10 times, then hitting Herrera with the weapon numerous times before running away. Other videos from responding deputies showed Herrera bleeding on the ground, asking for help, as they tended to his wounds before ambulances arrived.
"The defense gave an example that if this crime had not been filmed, would the deliberations be different?" Vandivort said. "I assume that is probably a possibility, but everything was cut and dry when it came to the act.
"Video or not, I think the verdict would have been absolutely the same," he added.
The jury reached a unanimous verdict of guilt in about 40 minutes. It took longer to come to a decision on whether Chavez should receive life in prison or the death penalty.
The jury was sequestered after a verdict wasn't reached on the first day of deliberations, meaning the jurors could not return to their homes or have contact with family members.
On the second day of deliberations, after 10 hours total, the jury verdict of death was read aloud to the courtroom.
Vandivort said it was important to him for the sake of everyone involved that the jury be in agreement on the sentence, and more so, to be at peace with their decision. But he called it "a gut punch" knowing they are responsible for Chavez's ultimate death by lethal injection at the hands of the State of Texas.
"I certainly did not have to go through everything the Herrera family, or the deputies that work in El Paso County, had to go through. So I'm not going to compare my experience to everything they had to go through," Vandivort said. "But as a citizen off the street, being called to jury duty and being put in this room with eleven other strangers, it's a very difficult decision and it's one that we discussed: If this case doesn't call for the death penalty, what case does?"
"It was not an easy decision," Vandivort continued. "(Deliberations) easily could've gone four days. It was very, very difficult."
Ultimately, Vandivort reached out to ABC-7 because he hoped this could shed light on the importance of jury duty -- a civic responsibility so many Americans try to avoid.
"Cases that go to trial that require a jury are very significant cases, and it's a humbling responsibility to take that on," Vandivort said. "So, I encourage everyone to grin and bear it, go do their civic duty, and hope and pray they're never in that courtroom on the defense side and need a jury of their peers to determine their fate."
Chavez remains in the El Paso county jail awaiting transfer to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice prison system. He will serve at the Polunsky unit, about 77 miles northeast of Houston in Livingston, TX, which is where death row inmates are housed.