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Under Texas law, a defendant can be found guilty of capital murder for being a party to a killing if he intended to kill the victim or "anticipated that a human life would be taken," even if he did not directly cause the victim's death.
A jury found Garza guilty of capital murder in December 2003 and sentenced him to death. He was also convicted of committing capital murder while engaging in organized criminal activity and given a second death sentence. He was also given a life sentence for the attempted capital murder of the surviving victims.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Garza's first capital murder conviction and death sentence in January 2007. The second capital murder conviction was also affirmed, but the appeals court vacated that death sentence, and he was subsequently given a life sentence. All of Garza's subsequent appeals in state and federal court were denied.
Texas Department of Criminal Justice records name Garza as a co-defendant in the Edinburg killings, but he was not brought to trial for them. Three men - Humberto Garza, Rodolfo Medrano, and Juan Ramirez - received death sentences in that case, and are currently on Texas' death row in Livingston.
No information on the three men Garza named as accomplices in the Donna murders - Mark Anthony Reyna, Guadalupe Guerra, and Ricardo Martinez - was available for this report.
In an interview from death row in July 2013, Garza denied involvement in either of the multiple murders. "I wasn't there. I didn't kill nobody," he said. He did, however, acknowledge that he was aware of a planned hit by his gang. "I had knowledge of it, you know, prior to it, so probably I'm at fault for not preventing it."
"I lived the life of a thug," Garza said. "I was in the streets. I was a gang member, you know."
Garza said he regretted the suffering he had caused. "Definitely, I feel remorse for the family, for the victim, for the victim's children, for my family, I mean for everybody," he said. "Not just for that case, but for my whole past, the people I've hurt in my past."
Garza said he has grown and changed during his ten years on death row. "I think I'm a totally different person today than I was back then," he said.
While in prison, Garza received two additional 8-year sentences for aggravated assault on a public servant.
Garza's execution was delayed for about two hours as the U.S. Supreme Court considered his final appeal, which he filed on his own.
Gaza expressed love to his family in his brief last statement. He did not address or acknowledge the victims' families. The lethal injection was started, and he was pronounced dead at 8:41 p.m.
Some death-penalty watchers had been speculating that Garza's execution would be the last one performed in Texas using the chemical pentobarbital. Companies that manufacture the sedative - long used for animal euthanasia and legal human euthanasia - object to its use in executions, and have banned its sale to state prisons. Other states have had to switch to other drugs for their lethal injections, but Texas had enough of a supply on stock to last to September. That stock, however, expires this month.
A spokesman for the Texas prison system said yesterday that the state will continue to use pentobarbital. He did not disclose how the prison will obtain its supply. Texas has another execution scheduled for September, and four more through the end of the year.
When U.S. states began performing executions via lethal injection in the 1980s, they used a series of three drugs, the first of which was sodium thiopental. In 2011, the only lab manufacturing sodium thiopental stopped exporting it to the U.S., so the death-peanlty states have switched to pentobarbital.
By David Carson. Posted on 20 September 2013.
Sources: Texas Attorney General's office, Texas Department of Criminal Justice, court documents, Associated Press, krgv.com, themonitor.com.