HOUSTON - The man accused of murdering Harris County Deputy Darren Goforth pleaded guilty to capital murder Tuesday in a plea deal that spares Shannon Miles' life, but sends him to prison for life with no chance for parole.
Miles appeared in court briefly Tuesday afternoon to enter the plea.
Goforth was murdered Aug. 28, 2015, at a Cypress service station.
Witnesses said Miles walked up behind him and emptied a pistol into the back of his head.
The killing sparked a national fury following police shootings of black suspects in Ferguson, Missouri, and other cities. The suicide of Sandra Bland in the Waller County Jail in July 2015 spurred the Black Lives Matter movement.
Investigators said it appeared Goforth had been targeted because he was in uniform.
After Miles’ arrest, police learned he had a long history of mental illness.
Prosecutors said that was a major factor in the decision to agree to a plea deal, along with the wishes of Goforth’s widow, the mother of their two children.
"I know that Darren would approve of how this played,” Kathleen Goforth said Tuesday. ”Because his main concern would be what it always was, Ava and Ryan, and that’s how I want him remembered, as a man who loved his family.”
After a long stint in state mental hospitals, Miles was found competent to stand trial in April. That same month, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon was appointed to prosecute the case.
Miles will spend the rest of his life in prison, with no chance of parole or appeal. While admitting his guilt in court, he didn’t explain why Goforth was killed.
“Due to the severity of his mental illness, he’s episodal psychotic and schizophrenic, he has no memory of the day, that day in his life even,” Defense attorney Anthony Osso said.
There were also problems with the investigation of the case. One sheriff’s investigator was relieved of duty for inappropriate contact with a woman Goforth had allegedly gone to the service station to meet that night who would have potentially been a prime trial witness.
The attorneys declined to discuss whether that played a role in the plea bargain decision.
Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez released the following statement about the plea deal:
“Two years ago, the Harris County Sheriff’s Office family suffered a terrible loss when our brother, Deputy Darren Goforth, was ambushed and gunned down. 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. We are grateful to Special Prosecutor Brett Ligon and his team for their hard work to bring this terrible case to a fair resolution.
"To the Goforth family, you will always be part of our family and our thoughts and prayers remain with you.
"Finally, I want to thank the men and women of the Harris County Sheriff’s Offic e family who faithfully serve our community with courage and dignity. We are grateful for our community’s support and trust, which we hold sacred. Thank you."
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