Texas inmate facing execution Tuesday claims he was 'railroaded'

Juan Martin Garcia's execution is scheduled for Tuesday, after a Texas board refused his most recent appeal last week. 

Mike Graczyk/AP
Death row inmate Juan Garcia is photographed in a visiting cage, Sept. 2, at the Texas Department of Criminal Justice Polunsky Unit near Livingston, Texas. Garcia, 35, from Houston, is facing execution Tuesday, for the 1998 robbery and fatal shooting of Hugo Solano. Evidence showed Garcia and three companions stole $8 from the victim.

The state of Texas, which has executed ten people this year, has scheduled an eleventh for Tuesday.

Juan Martin Garcia, who was convicted of capital murder in 2000, was sentenced to death for the 1998 killing of Mexican missionary Hugh Solano in a Houston robbery-gone-wrong that yielded just $8 and sent four men to prison.

The US Supreme Court and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles have both refused Mr. Garcia’s appeals, leaving him to say “If it’s God’s will, it’s his will,” according to the Associated Press.

Garcia admits to shooting Mr. Solano, who had moved his family to the United States just before his death, but believes that he “got railroaded since I didn’t take the stand” to testify.

A jury decided Garcia was the ringleader of three other men, although he maintains that the robbery was another’s idea.

Eleazar Mendoza, whom Garcia accused of hatching the plan, was sentenced to 55 years in prison, and said that it was Garcia who approached Solano, ordered him to hand over his money, and shot him when he refused. Solano was shot four times in the head and neck.

Although he admits to shooting Solano, Garcia denies the robbery, and claims that the gun “discharged” after Solano punched Garcia and grabbed the weapon. “First thing that came through my mind is that the dude is going to try to kill me,” Garcia explained.

"My dad used to beat me," Garcia added. "When that guy hit me, I was high on drugs and the first person I saw was my dad. So I kept shooting."

A long list of previous crimes, including two attempted murders, aggravated robberies, began when Garcia was 12. At the time of Solano’s murder, Garcia was 18.

Texas executes far more people than any other state in the nation, the subject of a PBS Frontline investigation that suggested its legal system’s set-up and cultural factors could explain why it processes capital murder cases “with a speed unimaginable in other parts of the country.”

Since 1976, Texas has executed more than a third of the 1,416 inmates put to death in the United States as a whole, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who supports the death penalty, recently told students at Rhodes College in Memphis, Tenn., that he “wouldn’t be surprised” if capital punishment is soon declared unconstitutional. 

His remarks came just days before Pope Francis’ historic address to Congress, in which he reaffirmed the Catholic Church’s strong opposition to the death penalty, “since every life is sacred.” 

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

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