Harris County

Man convicted of killing Harris County Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal asks jury to give him death penalty

A Harris County jury will determine if Robert Solis receives the death penalty for the 2019 murder of the veteran deputy. Three death sentences have been issued in the county during the last eight years.

Sandeep Dhaliwal
Via Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal´s Twitter account
This undated photo shows Harris County Sheriff’s Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal while on duty.

A Harris County jury will decide whether to issue the death penalty for the first time in more than two years after finding a man guilty of capital murder this week in the 2019 shooting death of Harris County Sheriff's Deputy Sandeep Dhaliwal.

Robert Solis, the 50-year-old Houston man who received the guilty verdict Monday, all but asked for such a fate as the sentencing phase of the trial began later in the day. He addressed the jury directly, a week after dismissing his three court-appointed defense attorneys and choosing to represent himself.

"Since you believe I'm guilty of capital murder, I believe you should give me the death penalty," Solis said in pool footage of the trial.

A representative of the Harris County District Attorney's Office, which is seeking the death penalty, said it would not comment until Solis' trial is complete. So did a representative of the Harris County Sheriff's Office, where the 42-year-old Dhaliwal worked for 10 years and gained national notoriety in 2015 for receiving permission to wear a turban while on duty as part of his Sikh faith.

Seeking the death penalty in Harris County has become a rarity since Kim Ogg, a Democrat, was elected as district attorney in 2016. Only three convicted criminals in the county have received death sentences since 2018, whereas four men were sentenced to death in 2014 alone.

The last death sentence issued in Harris County came in March 2020, when Lucky Ward was convicted of capital murder in the strangulation deaths of Reita Long and Charlie Rodriguez in 2010.

Solis was convicted of shooting Dhaliwal twice in the head at point-blank range after getting out of his car and running after the deputy during a traffic stop on Sept. 27, 2019. Solis had been out of prison on parole after serving part of a 20-year sentence for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and aggravated kidnapping stemming from an incident in 2002, according to Harris County court records.

On Oct. 10, the same day Judge Chris Morton signed an order in which Solis waived his right to court-appointed counsel, Harris County Hearing Officer John Clinton ordered Solis to be evaluated for mental illness or an intellectual disability, court documents show.

Solis' mental capacity could impact his sentencing as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2002 that issuing the death penalty to a person with an intellectual disability constituted cruel and unusual punishment and would be in violation of that person's constitutional rights under the Eighth Amendment.