Texas: Gov. Abbott should grant death row inmate Rodney Reed a reprieve, before it’s too late

Convicted murderer Rodney Reed is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Nov. 20, but Gov. Greg Abbott has the power to stop it.
As it stands, there’s no indication that Abbott will. He has only stopped one execution since becoming governor 5 years ago.
Reed was sentenced to death in 1998, after being convicted of the brutal 1996 rape and killing of a 19-year-old woman from central Texas, Stacey Stites. And though the governor has yet to weigh in on this specific case, he supports capital punishment, as do most voters in the state. According to a June 2018 poll from the University of Texas/Texas Tribune, fully three-fourths of Texans strongly or somewhat support the death penalty.
But the question at hand has nothing to do with the death penalty, per se. Granting a reprieve would simply be the right thing to do — and a necessary precaution against the doubts that would linger, if Reed is executed as scheduled.
Reed has consistently maintained his innocence, and legitimate questions …

Texas executes Robert Garza

Robert Garza
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — Convicted killer Robert Gene Garza was executed Thursday for his involvement in a street gang ambush in which four women were gunned down in South Texas 11 years ago.

Garza, 30, is the 12th condemned inmate executed this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment far more than any other state.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to halt the execution of the  former South Texas street gang member.

The high court in a brief ruling rejected Robert Gene Garza’s last-ditch appeals Thursday evening while he waited in a cell a few steps from the Texas death chamber.

Garza smiled and blew a kiss to friends and relatives as they entered the death chamber. In a brief final statement, he thanked them for coming and told them he loved them.

"I know it's hard for you," he said. "It's not easy. This is a release. Y'all finally get to move on with your lives."

He was pronounced dead at 8:41 p.m. CDT, 26 minutes after a lethal dose of pentobarbital began flowing into his arms.

A member of a Rio Grande Valley gang known as the Tri-City Bombers even before he was a teenager, Garza insisted a statement to police acknowledging his participation in the September 2002 shootings in Hidalgo County was made under duress and improperly obtained.

But prosecutors said Garza orchestrated the gang's plan to silence the women, who he thought had witnessed another gang crime, and was present when several gang members opened fire on the women when they arrived at their trailer park home after work at a bar.

"I really didn't have anything to do with the scenario the state was providing," Garza told The Associated Press recently from death row. "I guess since we are gang members, they got me involved through the gang.

"I think they were just trying to close his case ... and they needed somebody."

Evidence later would show the women were killed by mistake. The gang member in that case never went to trial because he accepted a plea deal and prison term.

Garza, who was arrested in late January 2003, was convicted under Texas' law of parties, which makes a non-triggerman equally culpable. Evidence showed Garza was a gang leader, told his companions how to do the killings, was present when the shootings took place and "in all likelihood was a shooter but is downplaying his part," Joseph Orendain, the Hidalgo County assistant district attorney who prosecuted him, said this week.

In February, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review his case. His lawyer, Don Vernay, said appeals were exhausted.

Garza filed his own last-day appeals Thursday to the high court, arguing his trial attorneys failed to obtain from his mother testimony jurors should have been allowed to hear that he stayed in the gang because he feared retaliation if he quit. He also contended his trial court judge earlier this week improperly refused his request to withdraw his execution date. Garza argued the state should assure him the lethal dose of pentobarbital to be used in his punishment was chemically effective and obtained legally.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice officials have said their existing inventory of pentobarbital is expiring this month, meaning they'd have to find another yet undisclosed source or drug to use in executions because manufacturers have refused to sell it for death penalty use.

Garza also was charged but never tried for participating in what became known in the Rio Grande Valley as the Edinburg massacre, the January 2003 slayings of six people at a home in the city.

In the case that sent him to death row, Garza was convicted of two counts of capital murder for the slayings of the four women. Evidence showed they were living in the U.S. without legal permission just outside Donna, about 15 miles southeast of McAllen.

In his statement to investigators, which Garza insisted was coerced, he said he carried out the "hit" with three other gunmen in two vehicles who opened fire on six women in their parked car. Killed were Maria De La Luz Bazaldua Cobbarubias, Dantizene Lizeth Vasquez Beltran, Celina Linares Sanchez and Lourdes Yesenia Araujo Torres. Two others survived.

Another Texas inmate is set to die next week.

Garza becomes the 12 condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas the the 504th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982. Garza becomes the 265th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Rick Perry became governor in 2001.

Garza becomes the 25th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1345th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Source: Associated Press, Rick Halperin, September 19, 2013

Related articles:
Sept 18, 2013
Activists have been holding press conferences, speaking to community meetings and rallies, getting letters to the Governor and Board of Pardons signed and mailed, as well as feverishly using the Internet, Face Book, and ...
Sep 13, 2013
Robert Garza is scheduled to die on September 19. The state of Texas has not attempted to prove that he killed anyone. When a young Latino male in the Rio Grande Valley - the long-impoverished, southernmost tip of the ...

Robert Garza, Presente!
By Gloria Rubac

Tonight was one of those nights in Huntsville where I wished the whole town would disappear off the face of the earth . Robert Garza was scheduled for execution. He was convicted under the Law of Parties, but as he said, "Where is the party?" No one else was ever sentenced in this case. Robert did not shoot the victims. Yet he spent 11 years on death row and was murdered by the State of Texas.

Robert was to have been executed at 6:00 so people stated gathering before 5:00 to stand vigil and protest this execution.

As 6:00 came, there was no sign that the execution was happening. The Supreme Court was going over appeals until 8:00. So for 3 hours or so, around 30 people gathered outside of the death house, the Walls Unit in downtown Huntsville, to stand with the Garza family and protest this damned system of capital punishment that is so broken, so irreparable, that it should be shut down immediately.

When 6:00 came and went, we found out the high court was deliberating. Then 7:00 came and went and we were starting to get optimistic they would make a favorable ruling. We heard that Ruth Bader Ginsburg was asking questions. But at 8:00 we started hearing Robert's appeals were denied.

The pain on Kory Garza's face tells the story of how the families of those being executed suffer the same excruciating pain as do the families of crime victims.

Kory and her little brother Eric, who has a look like a deer caught in headlights, have stood with their mother Sylvia in defending Bobby for years and years. If only ALL those on death row had family support like this.

Kory was six years old when Bobby was sent to death row. She is now a junior in high school. Eric is ten years old and in 5th grade. He was a baby when Bobby was arrested. He has grown up knowing his brother only threw a glass partition and speaking to him thru a phone.

At 8:10 we saw Jennifer, Robert's wife, and his friend Yadira, Sylvia and Jaime, her husband, crossing the street. It was dark by now so it was hard to make them out. But Kory recognized her mother and began crying. Then Eric started crying and so many of us tried to comfort and support them.

It was so awful knowing that Sylvia, the strong mother and woman, had spent so many years working to end the Law of Parties, working to educate people in the Valley about capital punishment, lobbying with all of us and our organizations that work together and meet at the capitol every legislative session to try to persuade legislators that the Law of Parties is so unfair, so wrong, so not in the interest of justice. I was in a lobby group with Sylvia this past spring and she had legislators or their aides spell bound as she spoke about her son.

Sylvia always visited Bobby, always fought for him, and now Texas was slapping her in the face. Telling her that even though Bobby did not murder any of the four victims in this case, he deserved to be killed.

As darkness came, a few people had to leave but most stayed until the bitter end, like our friend from Germany, Karl Rodenberg.
Karl visits several men on the row and will be here for three weeks. This trip he brought his sign from the German Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. He left it with Dennis to let others visiting from Germany hold when they are here. Standing with Karl is Sam Houston Prof. Dennis Longmire who is present at every execution.

This evening ended with us exchanging tears and hugs with Sylvia and Jennifer after the execution.

I drove Yadira back to Houston as she was too distraught to function after witnessing her friend's execution.

This was a horrible night that none of us wanted to happen. But it did. I hold the governor, the legislature, the Board of Pardons, and the Supreme Court guilty of murder. They are killers. They have allowed the injustice of the death penalty to continue and to murder Bobby Garza. The Garza family is now a crime victim's family.

Robert Garza, Presente!

Source: Gloria Rubac, TCADP, September 19, 2013
“ Never Go To Bed Without Striking A Blow Against Injustice." - Harry Belafonte

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