PUBLIC AI Index: AMR 51/091/2001
20 June 2001
Further information on EXTRA 29/01 (AMR 51/074/2001, 23 May 2001) - Death penalty
/ Legal concern
USA (Federal)Juan Raul GARZA, Latino, aged 44
On 19 June, Juan Raul Garza became the second federal prisoner to be executed
in the USA in eight days. President George W. Bush had denied clemency the
The execution went ahead despite a call from the Inter-American Commission
on Human Rights to commute Raul Garza’s death sentence because the government
had used improper evidence at the trial (see original EXTRA). The Commission
sent an urgent communiqué to the US Government on 14 June reminding it that
“the United States will perpetrate a grave and irreparable violation of the
fundamental right to life under Article 1 of the American Declaration, should
it proceed with Mr Garza’s execution...”.
On 6 June, less than two weeks before the execution, the Justice Department
released a supplementary report to its September survey on the federal death
penalty system. The September survey had revealed widespread racial and
geographic disparities in federal capital sentencing. Although the 6 June
supplement offered no serious analysis of these troubling statistics, Attorney
General John Ashcroft used it to declare that the federal death penalty was
free of bias and that the execution of Juan Garza could go ahead. However,
the Justice Department has at the same time announced that a study of the
disparities will be carried out.
Amnesty International is deeply saddened that the US Government has allowed
the execution of a man whose case raised the very issues that the study that
has now been announced is to examine. Once again US authorities have shown
themselves to be contemptuous of international standards, and willing to
sacrifice fairness for finality in their relentless pursuit of judicial killing.
In a 19 June editorial, printed before the execution, the New York Times wrote:
“The fact that the government refused to postpone this execution until it had
completed a long-overdue review of racial and geographic disparities in the
administration of the federal death penalty is indefensible. The Justice
Department pledged last week to complete the study, but neither Attorney General
John Ashcroft nor the president seems willing to delay Mr. Garza's execution.
Instead they appear content to execute a defendant under a system whose fairness
they are still reviewing.” The editorial noted that the death penalty
“increasingly makes the United States a pariah among the world's democracies.”
For further information, see USA under the international spotlight as two more
executions due on Tuesday, AMR 51/085/2001, 14 June; Open letter to the US
Attorney General concerning the imminent execution of Juan Raul Garza, AMR
51/088/2001, 15 June; and USA: Second federal execution in eight days as fairness
is sacrificed for finality, AMR 51/090/2001, 19 June 2001.
Juan Raul Garza becomes the second federal prisoner executed since the USA
resumed judicial killing in 1977. He was also the 37
prisoner executed in
the United States this year, and the 720
executed nationwide since 1977.