DALLAS, Feb. 13 (UPI) -- A Texas convict was sentenced to death Thursday for killing a policeman in a robbery after escaping from prison more than two years ago.
Joseph Garcia, 31, was the fourth escaped convict to be convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for the murder of Irving officer Aubrey Hawkins during a Christmas Eve robbery in 2000. Two other inmates involved in the escape face similar trials this year.
The same Dallas County jury that convicted Garcia of capital murder last week returned the death sentence in the punishment phase of the trial.
Garcia was serving a 50-year sentence for a San Antonio murder when he joined six other inmates in the Dec. 13, 2000 escape from the Connally Prison in southern Texas. The mass escape sparked a nationwide manhunt that ended in Colorado a few weeks later.
Prosecutors portrayed Garcia as a ruthless killer during the punishment phase. They said he held a knife to the head of a correction officer during the breakout and during the robbery in Irving taunted the clerks, daring them to "try something."
Defense attorneys argued that Garcia grew up in an abusive family with a mother who used heroin and had little chance at a normal life. During the trial they said the state had failed to prove that Garcia fired at Hawkins during the fatal ambush.
Hawkins pulled his patrol car behind a sporting goods store as the escaped convict was fleeing with $70,000 in cash and checks and 44 firearms. He was shot 11 times and run over by a fleeing getaway car, according to the medical examiner.
Six of the escaped convicts were captured in January 2001 in the Colorado Springs, Colo. area where they were posing as missionaries. The seventh committed suicide when he was cornered in a recreational vehicle where they had been living.