- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

A convicted murderer and drug kingpin was executed yesterday at the same federal prison where Timothy McVeigh was given a similar lethal injection just eight days earlier — but, unlike the Oklahoma City bomber, he expressed remorse for his crimes.

Juan Raul Garza went to his death calmly at 7:09 a.m., telling witnesses at the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind.: "I just want to say that I´m sorry, and I apologize for all the pain and grief that I have caused. I ask for your forgiveness and God bless."

Garza, who ran a Texas marijuana-smuggling ring, was convicted in 1993 of shooting one man five times in the head and neck and ordering the murder of two others as part of what authorities called a ruthless drug operation. He was sentenced to death under a 1988 federal law that imposes the death penalty for murder resulting from large-scale illegal drug dealing.

He also was a suspect, but never charged, in the death of his son-in-law, whom he suspected of being an informant, and a woman he also believed had given information to authorities about his operation.

The 44-year-old drug dealer appealed his execution to the Supreme Court, claiming to be a victim of ethnic bias. The court rejected claims that the jury should have been told that the alternative to a death sentence was life in prison with no possibility of release, and that Garza´s death sentence would violate two international treaties.

President Bush also declined a clemency request by Garza, a U.S.-born Mexican-American convicted in Mr. Bush´s home state.

Garza unsuccessfully asked President Clinton in September to commute his sentence. Mr. Clinton did postpone the execution six months to give the Justice Department time to gather and properly analyze information about racial and geographic disparities in the federal death penalty system.

Strapped to the same gurney on which McVeigh died last week, Garza appeared nervous as Warden Harley Lappin opened the curtains on the execution chamber, witnesses said. He kept his head turned in the direction of the room assigned to his own witnesses as the lethal chemicals were administered. His eyes slowly closed halfway and his lips turned a light blue, the witnesses said.

About 50 anti-death penalty activists marched outside the prison. Fewer than 80 reporters had signed up to witness the execution, compared with more than 1,000 who had credentials for the McVeigh execution.

The deaths of McVeigh and Garza were the first federal executions in 38 years, and it could be several more years before another convicted criminal faces lethal injection at the Terre Haute prison, home of the only federal death row. No execution dates have been set for any of the 18 other men now held under death sentences.

Garza´s attorney, Gregory Wiercioch, told reporters a recent report on the death penalty from Attorney General John Ashcroft was a "shameful attempt to justify the unjustifiable."

"Some day this precise savagery will end, but not today," Mr. Wiercioch said. "Today President Bush had the last word. But he will not have the final say on the death penalty. History will."

Six of the 18 men remaining under federal sentence were sentenced in Texas; 16, including all six from Texas, are minorities.

Earlier this month, the Justice Department said in a report that a lengthy inquiry into the application of federal death penalty sentences found no evidence of racial bias. Mr. Ashcroft ordered further study, but said in a statement this week there was no evidence of racial bias in Garza´s sentence and no reason to delay his execution.

"Seven of Garza´s eight victims were Hispanic; the prosecutor in the case is Hispanic; the presiding judge is Hispanic; at least six of the jurors are Hispanic and all of the jurors individually certified that race, color, religious beliefs, national origin, and sex were not involved in reaching their respective decisions," he said. "In addition, of the six defendants — all of whom are Hispanic — who could have faced the federal death penalty from this jurisdiction in Texas, the government only sought the death penalty against Garza."

The McVeigh and Garza executions have reignited debate over the death penalty. Activists question whether it is a deterrent to crime.

A new study by three professors at Emory University in Atlanta found that capital punishment has a "strong deterrent effect" and an increase in arrests, sentencings and executions tended to reduce the crime rate.

Professors Hashem Dezbakhsh, Paul H. Rubin and Joanna Mehlhop Shepherd said each execution results, on average, in 18 fewer murders.

"Our results suggest that the legal challenge allowing executions beginning in 1977 has been associated with significant reductions in homicides," said the study, which included of a review of records from 3,054 counties over the period of 1977 through 1999.

"An increase in any of the three probabilities of arrest, sentencing or execution tends to reduce the crime rate."

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