death penalty news—–TEXAS

Oct. 15


Court denies appeal of death row inmate who killed Plano clerk

A court rejected the appeal of death row inmate Gustavo Garcia, who killed
a clerk at a Plano liquor store in 1990 and was involved in an escape
attempt 10 years ago.

In his latest appeal, Mr. Garcia raised 88 challenges, all of which were
denied by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Mr. Garcia was 19 when 43-year-old Craig Turski was shot and killed during
a robbery at Warehouse Beverages in Plano. He was arrested a month later,
found hiding in a cooler after another deadly robbery at a Plano
convenience store.

He was 1 of 7 death-row inmates who on Thanksgiving night 1998 broke out
of the Ellis Unit, northeast of Huntsville.

Only 1 prisoner made it beyond the prison's outer fence, and he drowned in
a nearby creek.

After the escape attempt, death row was moved to the more modern Polunsky
Unit and security was increased dramatically.

No date has been set for Mr. Garcia's execution.

(source: Dallas Morning News)


Texas Jail Project decries inmate abuse

At the Taylor County Jail in Abilene, some inmates say they've been
strapped to chairs and left outside all day in the sun or rain.

Others say guards sometimes sprayed pepper spray directly into their eyes.
Another staffer allegedly asked a mentally ill inmate: "Why don't you do
something positive and hang yourself?"

The allegations, some among 200 pages of complaints filed with a state
agency, are alarming even in a state with a "hang 'em high" mentality,
according to the Texas Jail Project. The group rallied Wednesday in
Abilene to decry inmate mistreatment, saying reform is still needed nearly
2 years after the U.S. Justice Department lambasted the Dallas County Jail
for serious lapses resulting in deaths.

"We want to bring awareness that these people are worth worrying about,"
Diana Claitor, the Texas Jail Project co-founder, told The Associated
Press. "Quite frankly, it's a widespread problem. There's a persistent
philosophy that you're guilty and you deserve whatever bad things happen
to you in there, that jail is supposed to be the punishment."

But some local and state jail officials disagree. Jails have improved in
the last decade, said Capt. Robert C. Green, the Montgomery County Jail
administrator and president of the Texas Jail Association.

Most county jails are "very much in good shape," said Adan Munoz, the
Texas Commission on Jail Standards' executive director. Only 31 of the 248
jails are currently out of compliance for violations from management
issues to broken smoke detectors found during annual inspections.

About 1,200 complaints are filed with the commission each year. Munoz said
his agency can penalize jails for such violations as withholding mail, not
providing a change of clothing or failing to give medical attention.

Munoz said his agency could not substantiate the 23 complaints filed since
2005 against the Taylor County Jail, which is among those listed as
meeting state standards.

"Jail is not supposed to be a positive experience, and some people are
griping for the sake of griping," said Taylor County Sheriff Jack Dieken,
who denied any wrongdoing by his staff. "For some of them, this is their
1st taste of discipline. Collectively, they're mean little rascals, but
individually, they're pussycats."

The Texas jail population has increased nearly 19 percent from 2000-07,
according to a study by the Council of State Governments Justice Center.
Also, many county jails are understaffed.

Claitor said some problems might be prevented if authorities knew more
about who was behind bars. Half of Texas inmates are being held before
their trials, while only 7 % are convicts, according to the study.

Complaints vary from the dire to mundane. After food vendors were changed
at the Tarrant County Jail in Fort Worth a few years ago, inmates threw
trays and almost rioted over the bland and meager rice-and-beans meals.
Sheriff's Office spokesman Terry Grisham said county officials eventually
agreed to switch vendors.

He said the jail's 3,700 inmates most often complain about medical

"The problems aren't different for big jails and small jails, because
everybody has to provide services to people whose freedom has been taken
away," Grisham said.

But serious problems may be easier to uncover in larger facilities.

In late 2006, the U.S. Justice Department said inadequate medical care led
to constitutional rights violations for the 7,000 inmates at the Dallas
County Jail, where 11 had died in 3 years. Included was an HIV-positive
prisoner who was denied an antibiotic to treat an infection and a woman
who hanged herself despite pleading for her medicine. A legal order issued
last year outlined specific ways the jail must correct the problems.

Earlier this year the Justice Department began investigating Houston's
Harris County Jail, saying it will focus on protecting the 9,900 inmates
from harm, environmental conditions and lapses in medical and mental
health care. Also, 2 employees were fired this summer for lying about an
inmate's January death.

Justice Department spokesman Scot Montrey said Wednesday that he had no
information on whether other Texas jails were being investigated.

Lance H. Voorhees, a chaplain with Taylor County Detention Ministries,
said many current and former inmates are too frightened speak out about
what happened to them.

"It seems to be a pattern of prisoners that have a smart mouth and get
knocked around," Voorhees said. "I'm not saying these inmates are angels,
but it's not up to jailers to break the law."


On the Net: Texas Commission on Jail Standards:

Texas Jail Project:

(soure: Associated Press)