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Federal Death Row Prisoner Juan Raul Garza in His Own Words, a Day Before His Scheduledexecution; Oklahoma Governor Grants Stay of Execution to Another Mexican National After a Personalappeal From Mex

June 18, 2001

Governor Rick Perry of Texas yesterday vetoed legislation that would have banned the execution of the mentallyretarded, a move that runs counter to a trend among states that have the death penalty.

The governor explained his action by saying that there were already judicial safeguards for mentally retardeddefendants in capital cases and that Texas had not executed a mentally retarded person.

But supporters of the legislation say six inmates with IQs of 70 or below have been executed since 1990. People withIQs that low are considered retarded.

Today we’ll look at two death penalty cases.

In his teen-age years, Juan Raul Garza worked the fields in Michigan with his parents, who were migrant farmhands,and sold fruit door to door. He eventually saved up money for a bed to replace the mats he’d always slept on.

When he returned to his hometown of Brownsville, Texas, he started a drug smuggling operation. He was convicted of 3drug-related murders in the 1990s.

Now Garza is scheduled to die tomorrow by lethal injection, the second federal inmate put to death in just eightdays. Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed June 11, the first to be put to death since 1963.

Garza, 44, is Hispanic, one of 17 people of color among the remaining 19 men on federal death row.


  • Elizabeth Semel, Director of the ABA Death Penalty Representation Project


  • Juan Raul Garza, from a video prepared for his appeal to President Clinton for commutation. The video wasproduced by Micky Dickoff.

A Mexican man scheduled for execution in Oklahoma this week was granted a 30-day stay following a personal plea onSaturday from Mexican President Vicente Fox to Oklahoma Governor Frank Keating.

A spokesman for the governor said Fox asked Keating to commute the death sentence of Gerardo Valdez, 41, to life inprison without parole.

Valdez had been slated to die by lethal injection tomorrow for murder. But Valdez was never advised of his rights asa Mexican national to contact a Mexican consulate after his arrest, as guaranteed by the Vienna Convention.

In recent years, tensions have brewed between the United States and foreign governments, particularly in Europe, overthe growing number of foreign citizens on death rows in the United States. Human rights advocates argue that almostnone of 89 condemned foreigners had been advised of their consular rights under the Vienna Convention. They pointout that the United States harshly criticizes other governments who deny the same rights to Americans who have beenconvicted of crimes abroad.


  • Mark Warren, human rights researcher who specializes in foreign nationals and the death penalty.

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