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Texas father faces trial in slaying of drunk driver

Man’s sons, ages 11 and 12, were killed in accident

ANGLETON, Texas — A drunk driver did not deserve ‘‘execution’’ by a Texas father accused of taking the law into his own hands in a fit of rage over the killing of his two sons in an accident, a prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

David Barajas is accused of fatally shooting Jose Banda in December 2012, minutes after the 20-year-old plowed into a pickup truck that Barajas and his two sons had been pushing on a rural road. Twelve-year-old David Jr. died at the scene and 11-year-old Caleb died at a hospital. The pickup had run out of gas about 100 yards from the family’s home.

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In opening statements Tuesday in Barajas’s murder trial, prosecutor Brian Hrach told jurors that Banda made a horrible decision by drinking and driving. “He deserved severe legal punishment, but he did not deserve a public execution,’’ Hrach said.

Police allege that Barajas, 32, left the scene of the accident, got a gun from his home, and returned to kill Banda.

Sam Cammack, the defendant’s lawyer, told jurors that Barajas did not kill Banda and that he never left the crash site. Cammack described to jurors a scene in which Barajas, desperate to help his sons, was covered with their blood after performing CPR on them.

‘‘When police get there my client is doing what he was doing the whole time, trying to save his children’s lives,’’ Cammack said.

Legal experts said the case will be difficult to prosecute given the lack of hard evidence: no weapon was recovered, no witnesses identified Barajas as the shooter, and no gunshot residue was found on him.

An even greater challenge for prosecutors could be overcoming sympathy in the community for the father. Many people in the town of Alvin where the tragedy occurred, 30 miles southeast of Houston, have supported Barajas. Some have said they might have done the same thing.

Hrach tried to minimize the absence of a murder weapon, noting that a fragment from a .357-caliber bullet was found at the scene, and that an open box of .357-caliber ammunition was found in Barajas’s home.

His house’s security system, with cameras that would have shown the accident scene, had been disabled, Hrach said.

Witnesses will testify that they saw Barajas leave the scene and then come back and approach Banda’s vehicle while appearing to be hiding something, the prosecutor said.

Also, Barajas’s blood was found on the armrest and dashboard of Banda’s car, he said.

In his talk to the jury, Cammack tried to cast doubt on the prosecutor’s allegations by noting various other people seen near Banda’s vehicle after the wreck could have been responsible for his death.

When 911 calls were played for jurors later Tuesday, Cammack suggested that Barajas would not have had enough time to shoot Banda.

While questioning dispatcher Grace Gambino, Cammack highlighted the timeline: The first call came in at 11:33 p.m., a child was reported dead at 11:34, gunshots were heard at 11:35, and police had arrived and cleared the scene for EMS crews at 11:40 p.m.

At least 25 family members and friends of Barajas were in the courtroom; they entered wearing buttons that said ‘‘Forever in our hearts, David and Caleb Barajas’’ and had a picture of the two boys. At least 20 relatives and friends of Banda were also in the courtroom.

Before opening statements, Judge Terri Holder asked that they take off the buttons, saying she did not want anything to unfairly influence the jury.

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