Bush denies Garza clemency; execution set Tuesday
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush denied clemency Monday for convicted drug kingpin Juan Raul Garza, clearing the way for Garza's execution Tuesday morning.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Bush found "no grounds" to spare Garza's life, clearing the way for the second federal execution in eight days.
Garza, 44, is scheduled to die by lethal injection at 7 a.m. Tuesday in the same death chamber in which Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh was executed last week. Before this month, no federal prisoner had been executed since 1963.
White House Counsel Al Gonzales spoke to Garza's attorneys Monday afternoon after the Supreme Court denied a stay of the execution and, after being told they planned no additional legal appeals, Gonzales told the attorneys Mr Bush had decided earlier in the day to reject the clemency request.
The White House delayed a public announcement to give Garza's attorneys time to inform their client of the president's decision. The court rejected Garza's claims that prosecutors had violated human rights provisions of the Organization of American States charter by introducing evidence alleging Garza was linked to four murders in Mexico for which he had never been charged.
Earlier Monday, the justices rejected a separate argument that Garza's jury was improperly instructed on the alternative of sentencing him to life without parole. In a case decided earlier this term, Shafer v. South Carolina, the Supreme Court ruled juries must be clearly apprised of sentencing alternatives.
Garza, a confessed drug trafficker, was sentenced to death in August 1993 in Texas for murdering or ordering the murders of three other drug traffickers in an attempt to gain further control of distribution networks. He was sentenced to death for each of the murders under a federal "drug kingpin" statute.
Garza request for clemency was largely based on the claim that the federal death penalty is biased against minorities. But Attorney General John Ashcroft said there was no reason to spare Garza's life. He said Garza was responsible for the three deaths and five others -- murders in Mexico for which he was never prosecuted.
Ashcroft also said there was no racial bias in the case, emphasizing the prosecutor was Hispanic, as were seven of the eight victims. Born in Brownsville, Texas, Garza is Hispanic and a U.S. citizen.
"I do not believe there is any reason to further delay his execution," Ashcroft said. "His execution and the Department of Justice's ongoing efforts to review how death penalty cases are brought in the federal system serve the same goal: the preservation and protection of the public's confidence in our system of justice."
Garza is in the cell adjacent to the execution chamber, where he is scheduled to be strapped to a gurney Tuesday morning and injected with three chemicals. It is the same cell where McVeigh spent his final hours before his execution last week.
The holding cell is equipped with a bed, reading area, shower and toilet and is slightly bigger than the cell where Garza has spent most of his time at the penitentiary, officials said.
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