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Texas prison escapee could face death penalty

DALLAS, Texas (CNN) -- A courtroom hearing resumes Wednesday to decide whether the leader of a gang of Texas prison escapees convicted of killing a policeman should be put to death or spend the rest of his life in prison.

George Rivas was found guilty of capital murder Tuesday in the slaying of Officer Aubrey Hawkins last Christmas Eve. Hawkins was shot and run over with a car during the robbery of a sporting goods store in Irving, Texas.

Testimony in the sentencing phase is set to start Wednesday morning. Defense attorneys have indicated that Rivas, 31, may take the stand.

Prosecutors presented evidence for five days last week, including a confession in which Rivas asked for forgiveness and said he deserves to die for shooting Hawkins. Jurors also heard testimony from robbery victims, forensic experts and the officer's widow.


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Identified by authorities as the ringleader of the escape, Rivas was the first of the surviving six convicts to go on trial. Prosecutors have said they will seek the death penalty against all the men.

Rivas was serving one of 17 life sentences when he and six others broke out of a state prison on December 13. They were arrested six weeks later in Colorado, where one member of the group committed suicide.

Defense attorneys presented their first witness last Friday, a sporting goods store manager who said in a police statement the night of the robbery that he thought Rivas may have cut restraints from the thumbs of a worker who complained of pain.

In court, however, the manager said he was mistaken and that he now believed another manager removed the bindings, not Rivas.

Included in the evidence introduced against Rivas was a 21-page written statement to police in which Rivas said he deserves to die for shooting Hawkins.


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