MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - The man convicted of murdering a Montgomery police officer two years ago learned his fate Thursday. Circuit Judge Truman Hobbs, Jr. overrode the jury's recommendation and instead gave Mario Woodward the death sentence.
Mario Woodward now knows he won't have much space to walk around from now on because pretty soon he'll be confined to a 5 by 8 cell for 23 of the 24 hours each day with no human contact. And, that's just the way District Attorney Ellen Brooks wanted it. "I'm emotional simply because justice was done today and it's been two years coming."
It was an emotional day for folks in the courtroom. They remember that day in September 2006 when Officer Keith Houts was shot and the vigil held for him after his death. District Attorney Ellen Brooks put the candle she held that night on the table in front of her. "And, for the last two years, I kept that candle right behind my desk to remind me why we do what we do - that it is about a life lost and today is the first day I have lit it since that vigil."
There were tears when the judge announced he had overturned the jury's recommendation and ordered the death penalty. Woodward's mother escaped through a side door and the Houts family gathered around the candle.
Houts' widow, Ashley Houts, spoke publicly for the first time since the trial. "There's not a day that goes by that I don't have someone come and tell me how Keith touched their life. And, you'd be surprised how many people in this community will come up and say he changed my tire. He pulled over after work and changed my tire. He gave me a ticket but he smiled and was real nice when he did it- just different things. They say he brightened their day. So, this was a loss not just for our family but for the community."
In court, they played a recording of a phone conversation between Woodward and his father when Woodward was in jail for Houts' murder. Woodward says to his father, "I appreciate what you did with me. You feel me? Even though when I was younger, we had misunderstandings or whatever, or whatever. In the end, you was painting a good picture for me. I just wasn't trying to see it."
After the sentencing, Houts' father Eddie Houts talked about his pain. "I'm sorry for Mario's father cause we both have lost our sons. I know he kind of lost his a long time ago when he chose the street and because of his decision I lost my son."