Texas Execution Information Center

Execution Report: Joseph Garcia

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A jury found Garcia guilty of capital murder in February 2003 and sentenced him to death. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and sentence in February 2005. All of his subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.

Many of Garcia's appeals revolved around his claim that he did not shoot Officer Hawkins and had only a minor role in the robbery. Garcia carried a gun during the Oshman's robbery, but claimed he was still inside the store when five of his co-defendants shot Hawkins outside. The state did not present evidence that Garcia was one of the shooters, but under Texas law, a defendant can be found guilty as a party to capital murder if the jury believes he intended to take a life or anticipated that a life would be taken.

All five of the other surviving escapees were also convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Rodriguez, who chose to drop his appeals, was executed in August 2008 after expressing sorrow for his actions and asking for forgiveness in his last statement. Rivas, who planned the escape and claimed that he never intended for anyone to get hurt, was executed in March 2012. He also apologized in his last statement.

Newbury, who was executed in February 2015, set a different tone. He originally surrendered only after being allowed to make a televised statement critical of the criminal justice system. He later said in interviews that Hawkins's death was the result of poor police training and that he would escape again if he could. He never publicly expressed remorse for his crimes, and for his last statement at his execution, he quoted some lines of poetry that implied he considered being put to death an "indignity."

Murphy and Halprin remain on Death Row as of this writing.

Rodriguez's father, Raul, pleaded guilty to helping the prisoners escape.

As his scheduled execution drew near, Garcia maintained his position that he should not have to die for Hawkins's murder. "I am on death row because of the actions and intent of others and because I am one of the Texas Seven, case closed," he wrote in a letter to the Houston Chronicle. "Is it right that I should be murdered for something that I did not do?"

Garcia also claimed that the killing that first put him in prison was act of self-defense. He said that the other man, Miguel Luna, attacked him first in a drunken brawl, and he was forced to stab him.

In an subsequent interview with the Chronicle about a month before his execution, Garcia said the police officer's killing "wasn't supposed to happen."

"I wish I could take everything back," he said. He also expressed sympathy for Officer Hawkins's son and said he was ashamed to admit that he did not know his name. "I don't think there's enough words in the world to say to him what he needs to hear," Garcia said.

Death Row prisoners facing imminent execution often seek clemency from the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, which has the power to recommend that the governor commute their sentences to life in prison or even remove their convictions. The parole board rarely approves such requests, however. The week before his execution, Garcia sued the parole board, claiming that it is "stacked with individuals whose background places them firmly on the side of the State and law enforcement." Two of the seven-member board's current members are former TDCJ employees, while four others are former peace officers. Garcia's lawyers also filed last-ditch appeals challenging the constitutionality of Texas' law of parties and the manner by which the state obtains the drug used in lethal injections. None of the late appeals or lawsuits filed by Garcia's lawyers succeeded in winning him a stay of execution, but they did delay it by less than half an hour.

In his last statement, Garcia quoted the words of Jesus Christ as written in Luke 23:34, which He spoke while He was being executed: "Dear Heavenly Father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do."

The lethal injection was then started. Garcia then said, "They already started and I ain't even finished." According to Huntsville Item reporter Joseph Brown, who witnessed the execution, it was 47 seconds from the time Garcia initially stopped speaking until he spoke up again. He was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m.

Garcia's attorneys issued a statement from Garcia reading, "I want to offer my heartfelt apology to the family of Officer Hawkins, and the workers at Oshman's in Dallas. None of this was supposed to happen. I wish it didn't."


By David Carson. Posted on 5 December 2018.
Sources: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, Associated Press, Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Houston Chronicle, Huntsville Item, murderpedia.com.

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