Nearly two decades after the brazen prison break-out and cross-state crime spree that landed him on America’s Most Wanted and on death row, “Texas 7” prisoner Joseph Garcia was executed Tuesday night, the Houston Chronicle reports. In recent weeks, the 47-year-old who was convicted in the Christmas Eve killing of a North Texas police officer launched a slew of appeals, lawsuits, pleas for reprieve and requests for clemency. His last-minute legal moves raised questions about his initial conviction, the controversial “law of parties” and the source of the state’s lethal injection supplies. On Friday, the parole board rebuffed Garcia’s request for clemency, and lower courts turned down appeal after appeal.
“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 the Chronicle weeks before his scheduled execution. “Is it right that I should be murdered for something that I did not do?” To some friends and family of the slain policeman – Officer Aubrey Hawkins – the answer is clear. Seagoville police Sgt. Karl Bailey, a long-time friend of the Hawkins family, said, “The whole thing was sparked by the escape from prison, the burglaries – it was a crime spree.” At the time of the breakout in December 2000, Garcia was locked up in a prison south of San Antonio, serving a 50-year sentence stemming from a boozy fight that ended with one man dead. Garcia was convicted of murder, but he has long maintained that it was the other man – Miguel Luna – who attacked him, and that the fatal stabbing was only in self-defense. Behind bars, he made friends with a charismatic thief named George Rivas. They bonded over a “poor man’s spread” of prisoner-made food. Then, they plotted an escape.