Tuesday, November 27, 2018

Texas man faces execution for killing he did not commit

Joseph Garcia is scheduled to die in Texas on December 4, although it is clear that he did not kill anyone, reported the Houston Chronicle. Though he’s consistently admitted to his role in a prison break-out and robberies, he’s long maintained that he never fired his gun and never intended to kill a police officer after a botched robbery.
Even so, he was sentenced to death under the controversial law of parties, a Texas statute that holds everyone involved in a crime responsible for its outcome.
The law of parties has long been baked into the Texas criminal code. It’s a statute that’s broader — and used more frequently in death penalty cases — than in many other states, according to Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center.
The requirements are simple: The state must show only that an accomplice to one felony may have “anticipated” another felony could occur. So, if a three-man robbery crew hits a convenience store and one person kills the clerk, all three of them are guilty of capital murder — even if the other two never fired a shot. And, if there’s a getaway driver waiting outside, he can be responsible as well, even if he never got out of the car.
In some cases, the actual shooter might manage to net a life sentence and be eligible for parole, while non-shooter accomplices face the death chamber.
In some states it’s known as vicarious liability. Nationally, it’s not clear how many people are on death rows across the country under such laws, but the Death Penalty Information Center counts only 10 clear cases of non-shooter accomplices who’ve been executed, including five from Texas.
“There’s this borderline area between common and uncommon and I don’t think it’s either of the two,” Dunham said. “But it’s applied much more frequently in Texas than in similar circumstances in other states.”
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