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'Texas Seven' escapee executed

By Allen Cone
'Texas Seven' escapee executed
Joseph Garcia died by lethal injection Tuesday in Huntsville, Texas, almost 18 years after he, as part of the "Texas Seven," escaped from prison and killed a police officer. File Photo courtesy {link:Texas Department of Criminal Justice : "https://www.tdcj.state.tx.us/death_row/dr_info/garciajoseph.html"}

Dec. 4 (UPI) -- Texas executed Joseph Garcia by lethal injection Tuesday, almost 18 years after he -- as part of the so-called "Texas Seven" -- escaped from prison and killed a police officer.

Garcia, 47, was the fourth member of the group executed following Michael Rodriguez, George Rivas and Donald Newbury. Patrick Murphy and Randy Halprin are awaiting execution dates.

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Corrections officials pronounced Garcia dead at 6:43 p.m. in Huntsville. His final words were "Yes. Sir. Dear Heavenly Father please forgive them for they know not what they do."

He has been on death row since 2003, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website indicates.

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Garcia was the 12th Texas inmate executed this year and the nation's 22nd, the Texas Tribune reported.

Garcia was serving a 50-year sentence for the 1996 killing of Miguel Luna in San Antonio at the time of his escape.

On Dec. 13, 2000, the seven men overpowered prison workers at the Connally Unit in Karnes County using a detailed plan to break out of the unit. They took their uniforms, several weapons and more than 100 rounds of ammunition. They fled north in a prison truck.

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On Christmas Eve, a botched robbery at a sporting goods store in Irving ended in a shootout between the escaped convicts and officer Aubrey Hawkins.

According to court records, Hawkins died shortly after arriving on the scene. The officer was shot nearly a dozen times by the escaped inmates.

The "Texas Seven" drove to Colorado, hiding in an RV park until January. One group member, Larry Harper, killed himself.

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Under Texas' law of parties -- which holds all individuals responsible for a crime, regardless of their role -- six were convicted in Dallas of capital murder.

Garcia said he did not fire at Hawkins.

"It wasn't supposed to happen," he said in a Houston Chronicle interview. "I wish I could take everything back."

Garcia was sentenced to death in February 2003.

In a Nov. 14 plea to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, J. Stephen Cooper noted Garcia's original counsel, Robert Norvell Graham, Jr., didn't mention his client was sexually abused, lived in poverty, and dealt with his mother's heroin addiction, a sister's death, his father's abandonment and stints in group homes.

The state court denied an appeal Friday. But in a dissent, Judge Elsa Alcala criticized the ongoing the constitutionality of the law of parties and Garcia's death sentence.

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The U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution on Tuesday.

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