death penalty news—-TEXAS

August 14


First Texas Seven member executed

Condemned inmate Michael Rodriguez, convicted of taking part in killing a
Dallas-area police officer nearly 8 years ago while a member of the
infamous "Texas 7" gang of escaped fugitives, was executed Thursday.

Rodriguez, who had dropped all appeals and volunteered for lethal
injection, apologized profusely.

"My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and suffering I've brought
you," Rodriguez said. "I'm not strong enough to ask for forgiveness. I ask
the Lord to forgive. I've done horrible things that brought sorrow and
pain to these wonderful people," he said, looking directly at the widow of
the slain police officer and his former sister-in-law.

"I'm sorry, so sorry," he said.

As the drugs took effect, Rodriguez, 45, was praying in a whisper. "I'm
ready to go, Lord," he said.

Outside the prison, several dozen police officers stood at attention while
the execution was carried out, their hands clasped in front of them.

"Let's do the right thing — for once," he explained in a recent interview
with The Associated Press. "My parents raised me to be accountable."

He was the 8th convicted killer executed this year in the nation's busiest
capital punishment state and the 8th this month. Another is set for next
week. He was the first of the six surviving "Texas 7" band to be put to

Rodriguez for more than two years pushed to have his punishment carried
out. A federal judge held competency hearings to ensure Rodriguez could
make such a decision. After the judge approved, the execution was stalled
while the U.S. Supreme Court considered challenges that lethal injection
was unconstitutionally cruel. But after the justices earlier this year
ruled the method was not improper, Rodriguez's execution date was set.

He already was serving a life prison term for arranging the fatal shooting
of his wife in San Antonio in 1992 when he and six fellow inmates broke
out of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice's Connally Unit in
December 2000 by overpowering some workers there, stealing their clothes
and breaking into the prison armory to get guns. Their escape was aided by
his father, who parked a getaway vehicle nearby, enabling them to ditch a
stolen prison truck. Rodriguez's father later was convicted of helping

"Rodriguez was one of the more violent ones during the escape," Toby
Shook, the former Dallas County assistant district attorney who prosecuted
him for capital murder, recalled. "He would put these shanks in people's
ears while they were being tied up, making threats."

Two weeks after the break, on Christmas Eve evening, the fugitives shot
and killed Aubrey Hawkins, an Irving policeman, during the robbery of a
sporting goods store that netted them $70,000, more guns and the IDs of
employees. Rodriguez acknowledged taking the fatally wounded officer's gun
and pulling him from his patrol car.

Shook said evidence showed he also was among the gang shooting at Hawkins
and a gun that was left behind at the scene belonged to Rodriguez.
Evidence showed a bullet from that gun was lodged in the dashboard of the
officer's car.

"It was headed straight for him," Shook said. "So he was right in front of
him and firing directly at him."

Hawkins was shot 11 times was run over with his own car.

A month later, Rodriguez and three of the prisoners were captured at a
trailer park outside Colorado Springs, Colo. A 4th escapee, Larry Harper,
killed himself as police closed in. 2 others surrendered 2 days later,
ending one of Texas' most notorious prison breaks.

"I'm glad we got caught, so no one else would get hurt," Rodriguez said
from death row.

His five remaining accomplices — George Rivas, Randy Halprin, Donald
Newbury, Joseph Garcia and Patrick Murphy — joined him on death row.
Appeals for each remain in the courts and none has an execution date.

"The memory of Office Aubrey Hawkins, his dedication to duty and family
are cherished by the Irving Police Department and others that knew
Aubrey," the Irving department said in a statement released Thursday.

"His legacy and his service are not forgotten.

"Our police family suffered a devastating loss through Aubrey's ultimate

Dozens of officers were expected to be outside the Huntsville Unit prison,
where executions are carried out, to stand vigil.

Hawkins' wife, Lori, was scheduled to be among the people watching
Rodriguez die.

"The hardest thing is the constant presence of it," she said. "It's not
like there's one person involved. There are 6."

She attended the first couple of trials but then stopped.

"It was like reliving it every two years," she said.

She had been married to the officer for 4 years, then at age 27 became a
widow. She has since remarried.

"I had to move on," she said.

Rodriguez said his earlier murder conviction, for paying a hit man to kill
his wife, Theresa, was the result of an infatuation with a younger woman
who was a student at a university in San Marcos where Rodriguez also was
taking classes.

"It was stupid," Rodriguez acknowledged.

Rodriguez becomes the 8th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in
Texas and the 413th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on
December 7, 1982. He becomes the 174th condemned inmate to be put to death
since Rick Perry became governor of Texas in 2001.

Rodriguez becomes the 20th condemned inmate to be put to death this year
in the USA and the 1119th overall since the nation resumed executions on
January 17, 1977. The US Supreme Court had re-legalized the death penalty
on July 2, 1976, after a 4 year moratorium went into effect in June, 1972.

(sources: Associated Press & Rick Halperin)


Jury seated for death penalty case

The final members of a Travis County jury that could decide whether
Alberto Garcia receives the death penalty were selected today and opening
statements will begin as scheduled at 9 a.m. Monday.

Garcia is charged with capital murder in the 1990 shooting deaths of
Austin cab drivers Eleazar Hinojosa, 57, and John Parrish, 41. Police said
in 2004 that he was linked to the crimes through fingerprint evidence
while serving a federal prison sentence for bank robbery.

Jury selection in the case, which included the individual questioning of
jurors by lawyers, began last week. 12 jurors and 2 alternates were
selected. One juror who had previously been selected to serve caused minor
stress for the lawyers and visiting state District Judge Jon Wisser when
he e-mailed the judge today announcing that serving on the jury would push
him towards bankruptcy. The juror also told the judge that he had unfairly
prejudged one side, although Wisser did not say which one. After a
discussion, prosecutors and defense lawyers agreed the man should be
disqualified and he was later replaced.

Another man, Paul Mitchell Vallejo, was previously charged with Hinojosa's
death, but he was acquitted at a 1993 trial.

Garcia is represented by lawyers Bill White and Jon Evans. Darla Davis and
Beth Payan are prosecuting the case.

(source: Austin American-Statesman)