Pursuant to an order entered by the 399th District Court in Bexar County, Manuel Garza is scheduled for execution after 6 p.m. on April 15, 2015.
In April 2001, a Bexar County jury found Garza guilty of capital murder and sentenced him to death for the murder of San Antonio police officer John Riojas.
FACTS OF THE CASE
The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals described the murder as follows:
On February 2, 2001, Officer Riojas stepped out of his marked police car and approached Garza on a street in San Antonio, Texas. Officer Riojas asked Garza for his name. Garza knew that several warrants for his arrest were outstanding. When Officer Riojas asked Garza to place his hands on the police car, Garza sprinted away, explaining later: “As I started running the cop was telling me to stop. I just wanted to get away. I knew I was gonna go to jail and I didn’t want that.” Officer Riojas gave chase, eventually catching up to and physically engaging Garza. In the course of the altercation, Officer Riojas drew his firearm, which Garza wrested away. Garza fired one shot, killing Officer Riojas. Garza was arrested two days later.
PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY
Under Texas law, the rules of evidence prevent certain prior criminal acts from being presented to a jury during the guilt-innocence phase of the trial. However, once a defendant is found guilty, jurors are presented with information about the defendant’s prior criminal conduct during the second phase of the trial – which is when they determine the defendant’s punishment.
The federal district court summarized Garza’s criminal history as follows:
The prosecution presented police officers and lay witnesses who testified regarding a wide variety of crimes committed by petitioner, both as a juvenile and adult, including:
- the February 20, 1995 attempted burglary of an apartment;
- the April 2, 1995 theft of a motor vehicle and an ensuring vehicle chase;
- the May 6, 1995 attempted burglary of a vehicle;
- the Oct. 19, 1995 theft of a motor vehicle;
- the Nov. 9, 1995 burglary of a habitation;
- the Nov. 18, 1995 theft of a motor vehicle;
- the Feb. 21, 1996 theft of a motor vehicle;
- the Feb. 29, 1996 burglary of a habitation;
- the Oct. 10, 1997 arrest of petitioner on a youth commission warrant, at which time petitioner was found on school property in the possession of three knives and a screwdriver;
- the Oct. 20, 1997 search of petitioner’s bedroom at his uncle and aunt’s home during which search police found a wealth of stolen property and a Glock pistol and two loaded magazines;
- petitioner’s Dec. 24, 1997 escape from a juvenile halfway house;
- petitioner’s Dec. 29, 1997 theft and burglary of a motor vehicle;
- petitioner’s Dec. 31, 1997 to Jan. 1, 1998 theft of a motor vehicle and the ensuing high speed chase and crash of the stolen vehicle;
- petitioner’s Jan. 29, 1999 theft of a vehicle and destruction of the football field at petitioner’s former high school;
- petitioner’s Jan. 30, 1999 burglary of a vehicle;
- petitioner’s theft and burglary of a vehicle on March 5, 1999;
- petitioner’s theft and burglary of a vehicle on April 15, 1999;
- petitioner’s May 5, 1999 theft of a pair of expensive tennis shoes from a department store;
- petitioner’s July 1, 1999 unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and the ensuing high speed chase through a residential community;
- petitioner’s July 6, 2000 escape from custody following arrest and the extensive search leading to petitioner’s re-arrest on outstanding warrants;
- petitioner’s burglary of a vehicle on Oct. 16, 2000;
- petitioner’s Oct. 31, 2000 arrest on charges of driving while under the influence, without a valid driver’s license or proof of insurance, and possession of marijuana;
- petitioner’s burglaries, with others, of several vehicles in the same apartment complex on Nov. 29, 2000 and the ensuing high speed chase that led to petitioner’s arrest and subsequent written confession that he had burglarized three vehicles;
- petitioner’s Jan. 9, 2001 burglary of a vehicle; and
- petitioner’s second burglary on Jan. 24, 2001 of one of the same vehicles he had burglarized on Nov. 29, 2000.
The prosecution also presented documentary evidence establishing the petitioner had been convicted on separate occasions of multiple charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, as well as charges of theft, escape, evading arrest, theft, criminal mischief, resisting arrest, and unlawfully carrying a weapon.
On April 11, 2001, a Bexar County grand jury indicted Garza for murdering John Riojas, a peace officer acting in the lawful discharge of an official duty. A Bexar County jury found Garza guilty of capital murder. After the jury recommended capital punishment, the court sentenced Garza to death. Judgment was entered Nov. 1, 2002.
On Feb. 16, 2005, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Garza’s conviction.
Garza also sought to appeal his conviction and sentence by filing an application for a state writ of habeas corpus with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied this petition on Dec. 17, 2008.
Garza filed a federal habeas corpus petition in the federal district court for the Western District of Texas. The court permitted Garza to stay and abate his federal petition to pursue a second state writ of habeas corpus. On Oct. 12, 2011, the Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed Garza’s second petition as an abuse of the writ.
On Dec. 18, 2012, the district court denied habeas relief and denied a certificate of appealability.
On Dec. 20, 2013, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit denied Garza’s request for a certificate of appealability.
On June 30, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court denied certiorari.
For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website at www.tdcj.state.tx.us.