Juan Garza

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Juan Raul Garza
Born November 18, 1957 (1957-11-18)
Brownsville, Texas
Died June 19, 2001 (2001-06-20) (aged 44)
United States Penitentiary, Terre Haute
Terre Haute, Indiana, United States
Criminal penalty
Death penalty
Criminal status Executed
Conviction(s) Murder

Juan Raul Garza (c. 1957 – June 19, 2001) was an American murderer and drug trafficker who was executed for a federal crime.


In 1993, Garza was convicted of murdering three people while running a marijuana smuggling and distribution ring based in Brownsville, Texas. He was sentenced to death and appealed on the basis that the jury were apparently not told that they had the power to recommend life imprisonment instead of the death sentence. Garza's lawyers also claimed that it was unfair that the jury were told that Garza was suspected of four murders in Mexico given that, although a prime suspect in these crimes, he had never been charged or convicted of them.[citation needed] On July 13, 1999, federal authorities moved Garza, who had committed the crime in Texas but was under a federal death sentence, out of the custody of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) and into Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) custody.[1] Garza was one of three condemned inmates moved from the Texas state male death row on that day due to the opening of the new federal death row wing in Terre Haute, Indiana.[2] Garza had the TDCJ ID 999074.[1] Garza had the BOP ID# 62728-079.[3] All appeals failed, and on June 19, 2001, Garza was executed at the Federal Correctional Complex, Terre Haute by lethal injection.[4]

Case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)[edit]

This case was also filed to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an independent human rights body of the Organization of American States (OAS). On December 4, 2000, the Commission adopted the merits report 109/00, which was transmitted to the State Department on December 5, 2000. The merits report stated that:

"the Commission considers that the State’s conduct in introducing evidence of unadjudicated foreign crimes during Mr. Garza’s capital sentencing hearing was antithetical to the most basic and fundamental judicial guarantees applicable in attributing responsibility and punishment to individuals for crimes. Accordingly, the Commission finds that the State is responsible for imposing the death penalty upon Mr. Garza in a manner contrary to his right to a fair trial under Article XVIII of the American Declaration, as well as his right to due process of law under Article XXVI of the Declaration. (...) The Commission also concludes that, by sentencing Mr. Garza to death in this manner, and by scheduling his execution for December 12, 2000 and thereby exhibiting its clear intention to implement Mr. Garza's sentence, the State had placed Mr. Garza's life in jeopardy in an arbitrary and capricious manner, contrary to Article I of the Declaration. In addition, to execute Mr. Garza pursuant to this sentence would constitute a further deliberate and egregious violation of Article I of the American Declaration.".

Based on these conclusions, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recommended to: "Provide Mr. Garza with an effective remedy, which includes commutation of sentence" and "Review its laws, procedures and practices to ensure that persons who are accused of capital crimes are tried and, if convicted, sentenced in accordance with the rights established in the American Declaration, including Articles I, XVIII and XXVI of the Declaration, and in particular by prohibiting the introduction of evidence of unadjudicated crimes during the sentencing phase of capital trials".

By communication dated March 6, 2001 and received by the Commission on the same date, the United States answered that: "Finally, with respect to the Commission's conclusions in Part IV(C)(4) that Mr. Garza's rights to due process and a fair trial under Articles XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration were violated, we note that these conclusions are in conflict with jurisprudence based on the Eighth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. This jurisprudence requires the provision of all relevant information to a capital jury before it makes a sentencing determination. Indeed, the rationale on which the Commission recommends invalidating Garza's death sentence was presented to the appropriate federal courts in collateral review and rejected by them as not affording a basis for relief".

The IACHR analyzed this answer in its Report 52/01, published April 4, 2001, where it said:

"The Commission, based upon the foregoing considerations of fact and law, and in light of the response of the State to Report 109/00, hereby ratifies its conclusion that the State is responsible for violations of Articles I, XVIII and XXVI of the American Declaration in condemning Juan Raul Garza to the death penalty. The Commission also hereby ratifies its conclusion that the United States will perpetrate a grave and irreparable violation of the fundamental right to life under Article I of the American Declaration, should it proceed with Mr. Garza's execution based upon the criminal proceedings under consideration". On these basis, the IACHR reiterated the recommendations to the US Government.

Cultural references[edit]

An episode of American TV series The West Wing's first season, Take This Sabbath Day, deals with the imminent execution of drug lord and murderer Simon Cruz, likewise sentenced under the "Drug Kingpin" Act and to be executed by injection at Terre Haute (for killing two individuals in Michigan), who is described as the first individual to be executed by federal authorities since 1963 (probably alluding to the case of Victor Feguer, who would have been the last before Garza, had not Timothy McVeigh been executed eight days earlier). The episode aired on February 9, 2000, when Garza was on death row and the federal death penalty yet to be re-established in practice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Offenders No Longer on Death Row." Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  2. ^ Ward, Mike (July 19, 1999). "Texas death row empties 3 cells in a single day". Austin American-Statesman. "Killers as Louis Jones 49 Juan Raul Garza 42 and Orlando Cordia Hall 28." 
  3. ^ "Juan Raul Garza." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.
  4. ^ "Executions of Federal Prisoners (since 1927)." Federal Bureau of Prisons. Retrieved on August 22, 2010.

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