Fourth of Notorious Texas 7 Put to Death, Two Remain on Death Row
HUNTSVILLE, TEXAS – December 5, 2018
One of America’s most infamous death-row inmates was executed at Huntsville Prison (near Houston) on Tuesday by lethal injection, reports the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.
Joseph Garcia, 47, is a member of the notorious Texas 7, who pulled off the biggest prison break-out in the state’s history before embarking on a holiday season crime spree that left a Dallas police officer dead.
Garcia, then 29, was serving a 50-year sentence for fatally stabbing a man during an argument when he became part of the escape plot in 2000.
The gang of seven spent months carefully plotting the breakout from the maximum security Connally Unit in Karnes County, about 60 miles south of San Antonio.
On December 13, Garcia, Randy Halprin, Larry Harper, Patrick Murphy Jr, Donald Newbury, George Rivas, and Michael Rodriguez made their sensational escape.
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.
The gang loaded a maintenance truck and with guns and workers’ clothes before making their getaway, leaving a note warning: “You haven’t heard the last of us yet.”
After two robberies in the Houston area, they headed north as a massive police manhunt got underway by road and helicopter.
On Christmas Eve, the escapees posed as security guards, holding up a sporting goods store in Irving, northwest of Dallas, stealing $95,000, 44 guns, and winter clothing. They also took jewellery and wallets from staff who were closing up for the night.
Texas police officer Aubrey 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 inmates surrounded his police car and shot him 11 times before pulling him out of the vehicle and running over his body in their stolen SUV as they left.
The gang fled to Colorado where they were eventually arrested.
Garcia, Rivas, Halprin and Rodriguez were captured by a SWAT team at a trailer park. Harper, a convicted rapist, shot himself in the chest himself before the authorities could take him back into custody.
Three days later, with the reward for their capture reaching $680,000, police arrested Newbury and Murphy at a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs. Twelve loaded firearms were found in their hotel room.
The gang were all sent to death row. Since then, four have been executed: Michael Rodriguez in 2008, George Rivas -the leader of the band- in 2012, Donald Newbury in 2015, with Garcia being the fourth of the group put to death.
Two 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.
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 three times and snorted twice before all movement stopped. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m.
Garcia's was the twelfth execution of the year in Texas and the twenty-second in the United States. Before the end of 2018 there are three others scheduled in Tennessee - with the electric chair - Texas and Florida, in that order.
Since the Supreme Court restored the sentence four decades ago, 1,487 people have been executed, most of them, 557, in Texas.