The El Paso shooting looked like a slam dunk from a prosecutorial standpoint. You have the shooter in video of him walking into that Walmart and opening fire, the start of a rampage that would leave 22 people dead. You’ve got the manifesto that describes his motivation in detail. Since it was left online, you’ve got the digital fingerprints to link the shooter with the manifesto. The alleged shooter is reported to have confessed to targeting Mexicans with his attack, which kind of implies he’s guilty from the start. With all that evidence, there’s no way this would go to trial.

However, it is.

You see, the accused shooter has opted to plead “not guilty” in the deadly August 3rd shooting.

The Texas man accused of deliberately targeting Mexicans in a shooting spree that killed 22 people at an El Paso Walmart store pleaded not guilty on Thursday in his first court appearance.

[The accused], was indicted last month for capital murder and will face the death penalty if he is convicted, the El Paso County District Attorney Jaime Esparza said.

Another 26 people were wounded during the shooting.

[He] strolled into the courtroom trailing his two lawyers. Dressed in a navy sports jacket, white shirt and gray slacks, he betrayed no emotion and only spoke twice, answering “yes, your honor” to Judge Sam Medrano when asked if his name was correct on the indictment, and “not guilty” when asked for his plea. He was in and out of the courtroom in about three minutes.

One would think that with facing the death penalty, the alleged shooter would at least plea bargain down to life in prison, but he didn’t. That strikes me as odd, especially with the mountain of evidence we can see is at the prosecution’s disposal. Including video of someone who looks just like the accused walking into the Walmart with an AK-pattern rifle and ear protection.

So why the “not guilty” plea?

I’m not a lawyer, so all I can do is speculate. For example, maybe he wants the death penalty. Maybe he hopes he can explain himself during the trial and be hailed as a hero instead of put to sleep like a sick dog.

The truth is, though, the only ones we know who may understand why he pled this way are the accused and his attorneys.

This puts the opportunity for closure for the victims and their families further down the road. However, it’s also a necessary step. While it’s easy for us to look at the evidence and call it a slam dunk, our legal system exists for a reason. It’s due process and he is entitled to it. It’s extremely unlikely that the accused will ever breathe free air again, so we simply have to let this play out before it’s over and done with.

What this does is simply draw out the inevitable.

What it also may do is provide the opportunity for someone to turn the trial into a circus. Plenty of people have opined that President Trump is ultimately responsible for this attack and this trial could, in theory, provide someone an opportunity to try and prove that. I hope that the attorneys involved are more professional than that.

Either way, this marks the next step in the process.