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Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

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In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

Convicted killer from infamous “Texas 7” prison escape gets execution date

Joseph Garcia
On December 13, 2000, seven desperate inmates pulled off the biggest prison break-out in Texas history.

They busted into the prison armory, stole weapons and stormed out of the Connally Unit in a prison truck. After orchestrating two robberies in Houston, they headed up to the Dallas area.

There, on Christmas Eve, the men held up a store in Irving and made off with $70,000 and 44 guns. But on the way out, they ran into a cop.

The escapees surrounded the Officer Aubrey Hawkins' patrol vehicle and shot him 11 times before running over his body with an SUV on the way out, according to court records.

They were finally captured in Colorado a month later.

One of the escapees killed himself before police could get him. But the rest were sent to death row, where three have since been executed.

And now, a fourth, Joseph Garcia, has a date with death.

The Bexar County killer - originally sent to prison for stabbing a man more than a dozen times - is scheduled to die by lethal injection on Aug. 30, according to Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel.

"We are exploring several issues in this case that have not been considered by the courts in the past," said Mridula Raman, one of Garcia's attorneys. "We intend to raise these matters with the courts in the near future."

For Toby Shook, a former prosecutor who handled the case, news of the date was a welcome relief.

"It's been almost 18 years," Shook said. "It's satisfying that the actual sentence will be carried out."

George Rivas, who was already serving 17 life sentences, was the ringleader who planned the escape from the unit just 60 miles south of San Antonio.

With his six co-conspirators, Rivas masterminded the plan to overpower a supervisor and tie up civilian workers as hostages.

Two of the gang dressed up as prison workers to sneak into the armory where they overpowered another employee and took control of the guard tower.

Then, three of the men took the keys to a maintenance truck and loaded it with provisions and guns before they all fled the prison near Kenedy.

After their murder and robbery spree across Texas, they holed up near Colorado Springs before police caught them.

Larry Harper killed himself rather than face a return to Texas prisons. Rivas, Michael Rodriguez and Donald Newbury have already been executed, while Patrick Murphy and Randy Halprin remain on death row with Garcia.

"He was one of the more violent ones during the prison breakout," Shook said. "The hostages described him as one of the more violent ones, who made threats and went out of his way to frighten them."

At one point some of the other men said he was the one who'd fired the fatal shot, Shook said.

In the years since his conviction, Garcia has raised a number of appeals based on claims of bad lawyering. His attorneys didn't specify what appeals they plan to raise moving forward.

Texas has already executed six men this year. Including Garcia, another nine are scheduled to die - which means the state has exactly as many doses of its death drug left as it does executions on the calendar.

Source: chron.com, Kari Blakinger, May 24, 2018


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"One is absolutely sickened, not by the crimes that the wicked have committed,
but by the punishments that the good have inflicted." -- Oscar Wilde

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