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Texas executes member of ‘Texas 7’ for policeman’s murder

Joseph Garcia, one of the “Texas Seven” prison escapees, listens to his attorney in the Teller County Courthouse at an extradition hearing in Cripple Creek, Colorado, U.S. (Source: Reuters)

Texas on Tuesday executed a member of the “Texas 7,” a group of inmates who killed a police officer at a sporting goods store on Christmas Eve in 2000 after they escaped a maximum security prison days earlier.

Joseph Garcia, 47, was pronounced dead at 6:43 p.m. local time. He was put to death by lethal injection in the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, the state’s department of criminal justice said. “Yes Sir. Dear Heavenly Father please forgive them for they know not what they do,” he said before he died, according to the department.

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected a series of petitions to stay the execution shortly before it began. Garcia was serving a 50-year sentence for murder when he and six other inmates broke out of maximum security prison in Kenedy, Texas, on Dec. 13, 2000, according to court documents.

Eleven days later, on Christmas Eve, Garcia and the other escapees robbed a sporting goods store in Irving. Police officer Aubrey Hawkins, 31, was shot and killed by the group as the men fled, according to court filings. They were apprehended about a month later at a Colorado RV park where one of the escapees committed suicide.

Garcia was sentenced to die in 2013 after he was convicted of capital murder of a police officer. Despite not shooting Hawkins, he was convicted of murder under the state’s law of parties, a statue that holds a person criminally responsible if they act as an accomplice.

Garcia’s attorneys for years unsuccessfully challenged the merits of the case and conviction in court, including filing an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court last week. One of the appeals challenged the law’s constitutionality, arguing that his conviction along with his 15 years on death row violates the U.S. Constitution that protects against cruel and unusual punishment.

Three of the escaped inmates have been executed while two others are on death row. Garcia was the 12th inmate to be executed in Texas and the 22nd in the United States in 2018, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an organization that tracks the death penalty in the United States.