PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/84/00
31 May 2000
Further information on UA 40/00 (AMR 51/27/00, 17 February 2000) - Death penalty
/ Legal concern
USA (Federal)Juan Raul GARZA, aged 43
Juan Raul Garza is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection on Saturday
5 August, at 6am Indiana time. The date was set by a federal judge on 26 May.
If it goes ahead, this execution would make Juan Raul Garza the first prisoner
put to death under US federal law since 1963.
Juan Raul Garza was convicted in 1993 of three murders committed in Texas in
the course of a marijuana trafficking operation based in Brownsville, Texas,
on the border with Mexico. At the sentencing stage of his trial, the prosecution,
arguing for a sentence of death rather than life imprisonment without the
possibility of parole, introduced evidence that Juan Raul Garza had committed
four other murders in Mexico. The Mexican authorities had never solved these
crimes, and the US government sent agents to Mexico to investigate them. The
prosecution - with no physical evidence linking Garza to the crimes, for which
he had never been prosecuted or convicted - relied instead on the testimony
of three accomplices in the Brownsville drug ring, who were offered reduced
sentences in return for their testimony.
Lawyers for Juan Raul Garza have taken his case to the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights (IACHR), claiming that the US government violated his right
to a fair trial by introducing this evidence, which the defence team could
not effectively challenge. On 27 January 2000, the IACHR asked the US government
not to allow the execution to proceed until it had examined the case and issued
its judgement as to whether his rights under the inter-American system of human
rights protection had been violated.
On 13 April 2000 the European Parliament adopted a resolution urging the US
government to comply with the IACHR’s request and urging President Clinton
to “grant clemency to Juan Raul Garza and to impose an immediate moratorium
on federal executions, as a first step toward the universal abolition of the
death penalty in the United States”.
On 31 January Governor Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on executions
in his state because of the number of wrongful convictions there. The fallout
from his decision is still being felt, with calls for moratoria in other states
and at federal level as concern about the fairness and reliability of US capital
justice continues to grow. President Clinton, who has the power of executive
clemency in federal cases, has stated that he does not favour a moratorium
on federal executions. No prisoner has been executed under federal capital
laws since Victor Feguer was hanged in Iowa in 1963. Over 630 prisoners have
been executed since 1977 under state laws.
Between 1988, when the US Government reintroduced the federal death penalty,
and early 2000, the US Attorney General authorized federal prosecutors to seek
the death penalty against 188 defendants, 76 per cent of whom were non-white
(98 blacks, 45 Hispanic and 10 Asian/Indian). In April 2000 there were 20
prisoners on federal death row in Terre Haute, Indiana. Of these inmates, 14
were black, four white, one Asian and one, Juan Raul Garza, Hispanic. The US