Juan Martin Garcia’s execution is scheduled for Tuesday. He was convicted of capital murder for the September 1998 killing and robbery of Hugh Solano, a Christian missionary from Mexico who had moved his family to the city just weeks earlier so his children could be educated in the U.S.
Garcia, who acknowledges shooting Solano and is linked to a string of aggravated robberies and two attempted murders, insists he has been unfairly penalized because he didn’t take the witness stand in his own defense at trial.
The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Garcia’s case in March. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, in a 5-2 vote, refused a clemency request from Garcia last week.
“If it’s God’s will, it’s his will,” Garcia, 35, told The Associated Press last month from inside a cage at a prison near Livingston.
His lethal injection in Huntsville would be the 11th this year in Texas, which carries out capital punishment more than any other state. Three more executions are scheduled in upcoming weeks.
Evidence at his 2000 trial and testimony from a companion identified him as the ringleader of four men involved in the shooting and robbery. The slaying and a string of other violent crimes tied to Garcia, who was 18 at the time, convinced a jury he should be put to death.
Garcia, his two cousins and another man had already carried out a carjacking when they spotted Solano early on Sept. 17, 1998, getting into his van to go to work. Solano’s relatives said the 36-year-old, who did Christian missionary work in Guadalajara, Mexico, had moved with his wife to Houston weeks earlier so their children could be educated in the U.S.
Eleazar Mendoza, who pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 55 years in prison, testified that Garcia approached Solano and pointed a gun. Mendoza said Garcia ordered Solano to surrender his money then shot him when he refused.
Garcia said Mendoza came up with the idea to rob Solano and that Solano escalated the confrontation by resisting.
“He punches me,” Garcia said from prison. “First thing that came through my mind is that the dude is going to try to kill me. He grabbed the gun with both of his hands and it discharged.”
Solano was shot four times in the head and neck.
Garcia was arrested more than a week later when he dropped a gun while getting out of a car that police had pulled over for a broken headlight. He was released but arrested again when the gun was matched to Solano’s slaying.
Evidence and testimony tied him to at least eight aggravated robberies and two attempted capital murders in the weeks before and after Solano’s death.
Another defendant, Raymond McBen, pleaded guilty to aggravated robbery and was sentenced to 30 years in prison. He was paroled a year ago.
The fourth man charged, Gabriel Morales, went to trial and was sentenced to life on a capital murder conviction.