Office of the Attorney General News Release Archive

Tuesday, July 9, 2002

MEDIA ADVISORY

Jose Garcia Briseno Scheduled to be Executed

AUSTIN - Texas Attorney General John Cornyn offers the following information on Jose Garcia Briseno, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. on Wednesday, July 10, 2002.

On June 26, 1992, Jose Garcia Briseno was sentenced to death for the capital murder of Ben Murray, Sheriff of Dimmit County, which occurred in Carrizo Springs, Texas, on or about Jan. 5, 1991. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

Ben Murray was the sheriff of Dimmit County. At the time of the murder, he was conducting an investigation of a burglary. A few weeks prior to the murder, the sheriff met with Jose Garcia Briseno in his office. The sheriff wanted to enlist Briseno's help in solving the burglary case. In the presence of Briseno, the sheriff asked Deputy Ramon Saenz, Jr. what his opinion was about having Briseno work on the burglary case with him. Saenz did not think it was a good idea.

On the morning of Jan. 6, 1991, Maria Alma Cavazos was driving by the sheriff's house and sensed something was wrong. She stopped to check on the sheriff and discovered his body lying on the living room floor. A butcher knife was sticking out of his chest. Cavazos testified that the night before the murder, she had visited with the sheriff at his home and he showed her his wallet, which contained five, one hundred-dollar bills and a wad of other bills. The sheriff was known to carry large sums of money in his wallet.

The investigation revealed that the sheriff suffered numerous stab wounds, including defense wounds on his hand, had a piece of his ear missing, and had been shot in the head. A blood spatter expert testified that the struggle began at the back door of the house, continued through other rooms and ended in the living room where the sheriff was shot. The sheriff's badge case was on the floor with its contents strewn as if someone had gone through it. The sheriff's wallet did not contain any hundred dollar bills. The sheriff's pistol and a "Thompson" pistol were missing. One of the walls in the house was "caved in."

Briseno was arrested that same day, and he had bandages on both of his hands. Briseno told the investigators that he was accosted by two people in a park. They began to fight and during the fight he suffered the injuries to his hands. A sample of the blood taken from the carpet at the sheriff's house compared positively with that of Briseno. A sample of blood taken from Briseno's clothing compared positively with that of the sheriff.

Later, in an attempted escape from jail, Briseno enlisted the help of two jail inmates, promising one of the inmates, Richardo Basaldua, some of the money taken during the murder. After his capture, Basaldua related statements that Briseno made to him concerning the murder of the sheriff. He testified that on the night the sheriff was murdered, Briseno and Alberto Gonzales appeared at the sheriff's home offering to sell some rings. Briseno and Gonzales did not have any rings for sale but used the story as a ruse to gain entry into the sheriff's home. A struggle began and they stabbed the sheriff. When Briseno and Gonzales could not "take the sheriff down," Briseno grabbed the sheriff's gun and shot him.

Gonzales further testified that during their escape, Briseno led him to the spot where he had buried the gun used to kill the sheriff. Basaldua took the officers back to where Briseno had thrown the gun. The gun was recovered.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Briseno was charged by indictment in the 293rd Judicial District Court of Dimmit County, with the capital offense of murdering Ben Murray, Sheriff of Dimmit County, Texas. Briseno was tried before a jury upon a plea of not guilty, and on June 24, 1992, the jury found him guilty. Following a separate punishment hearing, the jury answered affirmatively both special issues. In accordance with Texas law, the trial court sentenced Briseno to death.

Briseno appealed his conviction and sentence to the Court of Criminal Appeals of Texas, which affirmed his conviction in an unpublished opinion on June 29, 1994. He then petitioned the United States Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari, which the Court denied on Feb. 21, 1995.

Briseno filed his petition for post-conviction writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court on July 31, 1995. The trial court held an evidentiary hearing and made findings of fact and conclusions of law on Feb. 21, 1996. The Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief based on the trial court's findings and conclusions on Nov. 27, 1996.

On Nov. 28, 1997, Briseno filed in federal district court an initial petition for writ of habeas corpus in which he raised three claims for relief. On March 22, 1999, the district court issued a memorandum opinion and order denying claims one and two of Briseno's petition for writ of habeas corpus and granting respondent's motion for summary judgment regarding those claims. On Sept. 29, 1999, the district court issued a memorandum opinion and order granting respondent's motion for summary judgment and denying relief with respect to the petitioner's remaining claim for relief. A judgment dismissing Briseno's petition for habeas corpus also issued that same day.

Briseno appealed the district court's denial of relief to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. After the oral argument, the Fifth Circuit affirmed the federal district court's denial of relief on Nov. 26, 2001. Briseno did not petition the United States Supreme Court for certiorari review of the Fifth Circuit's opinion.

No further litigation is pending at this time.

CRIMINAL HISTORY

At the punishment phase, the State first introduced penitentiary packets reflecting Briseno's prior convictions for burglary of a building (2-year sentence), burglary of a vehicle (3-year sentence), forgery (15-year sentence), and aggravated assault (25-year sentence).

Arturo Munoz, the victim of the aggravated assault, testified that Briseno and three others attacked him on Sept. 28, 1985. He was struck on the head with a piece of steel or wood and was shot three times. He did not know who struck him, but knew that Briseno did not shoot him. The victim's wife testified that she saw her husband being shot and then saw Briseno strike him with a four or five-foot long board.

Regarding the escape from the Zavala County Jail, Ricardo Basaldua was recalled by the State and testified that the plan to escape was Briseno's and that Briseno provided the knife to stab the guard.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please log on the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.

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