News Roundup: Twelfth Texas Inmate Executed

Our daily look at Texas headlines.

By Becky FogelDecember 5, 2018 3:40 pm

The Standard’s news roundup gives you a quick hit of interesting, sometimes irreverent, and breaking news stories from all over the state.

Texas executed 47-year-old Joseph Garcia Tuesday night.

He was a member of the so-called “Texas Seven,” a group of inmates who escaped from prison 18 years ago. While on the run, they committed a robbery on Christmas Eve that resulted in a deadly shootout with Irving police officer, Aubrey Hawkins. Five of the escapees fired at 29-year-old Hawkins, killing him.

Garcia’s attorneys said he never shot at Hawkins, but he was still convicted under the state’s Law of Parties. Under that law, someone can be held responsible for another person’s crime if they helped or tried to help commit that crime.

Kristin Houle heads the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty.  She says a lot of people have ended up on death row in the state because of this law.

“It’s my understanding that the statute in Texas on this issue is much broader than any other state,” Houle says.

Garcia is the twelfth person executed in Texas this year. The thirteenth and final execution is set for December 11th.

Texas hasn’t carried out this many executions in a single year since 2015. But Houle says, despite the uptick, the use of the death penalty is down overall.

“Not too long ago the state was carrying out 25, 30, even as many as 40 executions in a year, so although we regret that this year has seen an increase over the last two years, we know Texas is still moving away from the death penalty,” Houle says.

The last time Texas executed more than 20 people was in 2009, when 24 inmates were put to death.

On Tuesday night, Garcia’s last words were “Dear heavenly father, please forgive them, for they know not what they do.”

A federal agency says it will retroactively perform FBI fingerprint checks on employees at a temporary shelter for migrant children in West Texas. As Marfa Public Radio’s Carlos Morales reports, initial background checks were less rigorous.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services says it is working as “quickly as possible” to conduct FBI-fingerprint checks on the current staff at a Tornillo shelter, where migrant children have been held since June.

The Associated Press reports the background checks at first did not involve fingerprint searches. Instead, a private contractor relied on name-based checks, which are not as thorough and can generate false negatives.

A government report found the name-based background checks heightened “the risk that an individual with a criminal history could have direct access to children.”

The agency says it will include the fingerprint checks for all future employees at the shelter.

More snow is in the forecast for the Texas Panhandle later this week.

Alex Ferguson is an Amarillo-based forecaster with the National Weather Service. He says the area has already gotten 4.4 inches of snow – above average, at this point, in the winter season.

“On average, this far through the season, we’ll have about 3.2 inches of snow so we are about 1.2 inches above the average amount,” Ferguson says.

Ferguson says the Amarillo area is expected to see snow on Friday and Saturday.