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Did Texas execute an innocent man? Film revisits a haunting question.

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Texans will have an opportunity to revisit a question that should haunt anyone who believes in the integrity of our criminal justice system: Did our state execute an innocent man? 
The new film “Trial by Fire” tells the true story of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was sentenced to death for setting a fire to his home in Corsicana that killed his three young daughters in 1991. The film is based on an investigative story by David Grann that appeared in the New Yorker in 2009, five years after Willingham was executed over his vociferous protestations of innocence.
In my experience of serving 8 years on the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and 4 years as a state district judge in Travis County, the Willingham case stands out to me for many of the same reasons it stood out to filmmaker Edward Zwick, who calls it a veritable catalogue of everything that’s wrong with the criminal justice system and, especially, the death penalty. False testimony, junk science, a jailhouse informant, and ineffe…

Texas executes Joseph Garcia

Joseph Garcia
HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS -- The Latest on the execution of a man convicted of killing a Texas police officer in 2000 (all times local):

6:55 p.m.

A member of the notorious "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners has been executed for the fatal shooting of a suburban Dallas police officer during a Christmas Eve robbery nearly 18 years ago.

Joseph Garcia received lethal injection Tuesday evening for the 2000 shooting death of Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins.

Garcia was pronounced dead at 6:43 pm. His last words were: "Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The 47-year-old Garcia was part of a group of seven inmates who broke out of a South Texas prison December 2000 and committed numerous robberies before being captured, including the one during which they killed Hawkins.

The group was captured the following month. One inmate killed himself with police closing in, while the other six were convicted and sentenced to die. Four have been executed, including Garcia, and the other two are awaiting execution dates.

5:50 p.m.

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to halt the scheduled execution of a Texas inmate who was a prison escapee when he was arrested for the slaying of a suburban Dallas police officer.

Joseph Garcia was one of the notorious "Texas 7" gang of inmates who broke out of a South Texas prison in December 2000 and committed numerous robberies, including one on Christmas Eve when 29-year-old Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins was fatally shot.

Garcia's attorneys had five appeals before the Supreme Court that were rejected Tuesday evening, shortly before the 47-year-old Garcia was scheduled for lethal injection.

The escaped inmates were eventually arrested in Colorado, ending a six-week manhunt. One of them killed himself as officers closed in and the other six were convicted of killing Hawkins and sentenced to death. Garcia would be the fourth to be executed. The other two are on death row.

12 a.m.

Attorneys for a death row inmate who is scheduled to die say he should be spared because he wasn't the one who killed a suburban Dallas police officer during a Christmas Eve robbery 18 years ago.

Joseph Garcia's lawyers say the 47-year-old convicted murderer shouldn't be executed Tuesday night because it was others in the notorious "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners who shot and killed Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins in 2000. The group was captured the following month in Colorado.

If Garcia's appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court fails and he is executed, he'd be the 22nd person put to death in the U.S. this year.

Garcia was convicted under Texas' law of parties, in which a person can be held responsible for another individual's crime if he or she assisted or attempted to help in the commission of that crime.

This story will be updated.

Source: The Associated Press, DPN via Twitter live feed, December 4, 2018


'Texas 7' Inmate Executed for Officer's Killing


The Walls Unit, Huntsville, Texas
A member of the notorious "Texas 7" gang of escaped prisoners was executed Tuesday evening for the fatal shooting of a suburban Dallas police officer during a Christmas Eve robbery nearly 18 years ago.

Joseph Garcia received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the December 2000 shooting death of 29-year-old Irving police officer Aubrey Hawkins.

Asked by the warden if he had a final statement, Garcia replied: "Yes, sir."

"Dear heavenly Father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do," Garcia said.

He then paused, for nearly a minute, before speaking again as the muffled revving of motorcycles ridden by a group of bikers who support police could be heard inside the death chamber.

"To some of you," Garcia said, pausing again as the lethal dose of the sedative pentobarbital apparently had already started.

"They've already started and I ain't even finished," he said.

He gasped 3 times and snored twice before all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m.

Garcia, 47, who was serving a 50-year sentence for murder, was among a group of inmates who escaped from a South Texas prison that month and committed numerous robberies, including the one in which they shot Hawkins 11 times, killing him.

Hawkins had just finished Christmas Eve dinner with his family when he responded to the call about the robbery at a sporting goods store and was ambushed.

The escaped inmates were eventually arrested in Colorado, ending a 6-week manhunt. One of them killed himself as officers closed in and the other 6 were convicted of killing Hawkins and sentenced to death.

Garcia was the 4th of the group put to death. 2 others remain on death row.

Garcia's attorneys had asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop his execution, arguing he never fired his gun at Hawkins or intended to kill him. One of his lawyers, J. Stephen Cooper, said prosecutors didn't have any information that showed his client was one of the shooters.

"He didn't do anything violent or prepare or encourage anybody else to do anything violent," Cooper said.

The high court rejected Garcia's appeals Tuesday evening.

Garcia was convicted under Texas' law of parties, in which a person can be held responsible for another individual's crime if he or she assisted or attempted to help in the commission of that crime.

At the time of the prison break, Garcia was serving time for the slaying of Miguel Luna in San Antonio. Luna's parents and his three daughters were among witnesses to Garcia's execution, along with 2 friends of Hawkins. They did not make themselves available to reporters following the punishment.

Toby Shook, the lead prosecutor who handled Garcia's case and the five others who were tried, said that while authorities couldn't narrow down which escaped inmate used which gun to shoot Hawkins, the inmates acted as a team to commit the robbery and the officer's murder.

Shook said Garcia's case is a clear example of why the law of parties is needed in certain cases.

"He was up to his ears in murder and mayhem out there. He was actively participating in everything," said Shook, now a defense attorney in Dallas.

Shook said Garcia's execution will be another step to getting closure for Hawkins' family and law enforcement.

"Ultimately, we can finally close the book on them when the punishments are all completed," he said.

Garcia becomes the 12th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas and the 557th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7, 1982.

Garcia becomes the 39th condemned inmate to be put to death in Texas since Greg Abbott became governor of the state in January 2015.

Garcia becomes the 22nd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the USA and the 1487 overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17, 1977.

- Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present: 39


Sources: nbcdfw.com & Rick Halperin, December 4, 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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