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Texas executes Juan Martin Garcia

Juan Martin Garcia
Juan Martin Garcia
Texas death row inmate Juan Martin Garcia, 35, was put to death Tuesday evening in Huntsville, Texas for the 1998 killing of a man in an $8 robbery in Houston.

Garcia, 35, apologized to Solano's relatives in Spanish in the moments before the execution. Solano's wife and daughter sobbed and told the inmate they loved him.

"The harm that I did to your dad and husband - I hope this brings you closure," he said from the death chamber gurney, his voice breaking. "I never wanted to hurt any of you all."

He told his sister and several friends in English that he loved them. "No matter what, remember my promise," Garcia said. "No matter what, I will always be with you."

As the dose of pentobarbital began, he winced, raised his head and then shook it. He gurgled once and snored once before his movement stopped. He was pronounced dead 12 minutes later, at 6:26 p.m. CDT.

The execution was the 11th this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state.

Garcia was convicted of capital murder for the September 1998 killing and robbery of Christian Missionary Hugh Solano, who was robbed of just $8. Solano had moved his family from Mexico to Houston so his children could be educated in the U.S. only weeks before his death.

No last-minute appeals were filed on Garcia's behalf ahead of the execution.

But Garcia insisted he was being unfairly punished for the murder, which he admitted to committing, because he didn't testify on his own behalf during the trial.

"I got railroaded since I didn't take the stand," Garcia told The Associated Press in September in a prison interview near Livingston.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused in March to review Garcia's case. His request for clemency was refused by the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole in a 5-2 vote.

Garcia, a divorced father of three, described his actions on a website that connects inmates to pen pals "stupid, foolish, mistakes that I made in my life."

"I was sentenced to Texas death row on February 25th 2000 and I am still fighting," Garcia wrote on FriendOnline.org, where he appealed for an open-minded and non-judgemental woman to correspond with.

His death by lethal injection in Huntsville would be the 11th this year in Texas. The state carries out the most capital punishments in the country and has three more executions scheduled in upcoming weeks.

"If it's God's will, it's his will," Garcia said to AP.

Garcia, two cousins and another man had carried out a carjacking when they spotted Solano getting into his van to go to work early on September 17, 1998.

Eleazar Mendoza, who pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 55 years in prison, testified that Garcia pointed a gun as he approached Solano, saying in Spanish to give them his money. Garcia shot Solano when he refused, Mendoza testified.

But Garcia told the AP said it was Mendoza who made the decision that the group would rob Solano and that Solano escalated the confrontation by resisting.

"He punches me," Garcia said. "First thing that came through my mind is that the dude is going to try to kill me. He grabbed the gun with both of his hands and it discharged."

Solano was shot four times in the head and neck.

Garcia, who had an extensive record beginning when he was 12, was arrested more than a week after the killing, when he dropped the murder weapon as he was getting out of a car that was pulled over for a broken headlight, according to court records. He was released and was rearrested after the gun was matched to Solano's murder.

Garcia was linked to at least eight aggravated robberies and two attempted capital murders in the weeks before and after Solano's death during his trial, the AP wrote.

One accomplice, Raymond McBen, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was paroled a year ago. The fourth man charged, Gabriel Morales, went to trial and was sentenced to life on a capital murder conviction.

"At least I'm going home and I won't have to suffer this pain anymore, because I know that as the Bible says there is an afterlife with no problems and no sorrow," Garcia told the AP. "And that's all I look forward to."

3 more Texas inmates are scheduled for executions in upcoming weeks. They include Licho Escamilla, who is set to die next week for the 2001 shooting death of Dallas police officer Christopher Kevin James.

Garcia becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 529th overall since Trexas resumed capital punishment on Dec. 7, 1982; Garcia becomes the 11th condemned inmate to be put to death since Greg Abbott became Governor in Jan. 2015

Garcia becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1417th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

Sources: Inside Edition, Caitlin Nolan; Rick Halperin, Live Twitter feed (DPN), October 6, 2015

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