"Pursuant to the sentence of the United States District Court in the Southern District in Texas, Juan Raul Garza has been executed by lethal injection," announced warden Harley Lappin shortly after the 8:09 a.m. EDT execution.
A priest witnessed the execution, but not Garza's children and former wife: CBS News Correspondent Lee Frank reports although they were in Terre Haute, the 44-year-old man who admitted his guilt and expressed regret said he didn't want family members to watch him die.
Witnesses described him as calm.
"We chatted briefly about his family, about the events over the last couple of days, how much he appreciated the opportunity to say good-bye to them yesterday," Lappin told reporters.
As Garza was being executed, about 50 anti-death penalty activists sang "We Shall Overcome" and other protest songs.
It was the second federal execution this month, after the Supreme Court and President Bush turned down requests to spare his life.
The court declined to hear Garza's appeal that his jury should have been told that the alternative to a death sentence was life in prison without the possibility of release. Then it turned down a separate appeal Garza filed last week that asked for a delay based on his claim that his death sentence violates international human rights treaties.
White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said late in the day that Garza was informed that Mr. Bush found no grounds to grant him clemency.
Garza was convicted of ordering or carrying out three murders connected with his Brownsville, Texas, marijuana smuggling ring in the 1990s. He was the first person to be executed under the 1988 Anti-Drug Abuse Act, which imposes a death sentence for murders steming from a drug enterprise.
He was the second federal inmate, after Timothy McVeigh, to be put to death following a 38-year hiatus in federal executions. McVeigh was executed June 11 for the 1995 bombing of the federal building in Oklahoma City.
Garza, a Mexican-American, was the only Hispanic among the 19 prisoners under federal death sentence. His lawyers had said he should be granted clemency because it was still an open question whether the sentence resulted from bias against minorities in federal death penalty prosecutions.
Six of the 19 men now on federal death row were sentenced in Texas. All are minorities.
"There is a question of whether the way the system is set up produces arbitrary and discriminatory results," said Robert Litt, a former deputy assistant attorney general in the Clinton Justice Department.
Death penalty opponents have called for a halt to federal executions pending completion of a government study on possible racial and geographic bias on death row.
Garza was scheduled to die December 20, 2000, but President Clinton halted the execution to allow such a study.
That study has not been released to the public, but Attorney General John Ashcroft said earlier this month that it had been completed and showed no sign of bias.
The nine Supreme Court justices did not comment in turning down either of Garza's two appeals.
It takes five votes to grant a delay of an execution, and at least four votes to accept an appeal.
The Justice Department had urged the Supreme Court to reject both of Garza's appeals.
"Juan Raul Garza's guilt is not in doubt," Ashcroft said in a statement Monday.
As the leader of a drug smuggling ring, Garza was convicted of murdering Thomas Rumbo by shooting him five times in the head and neck. Ashcroft said in the statement that Garza ordered the murders of Erasmo De La Fuente and Gilberto Matos, paying the killers $10,000 each for De La Fuente's murder and "money and a car" for killing Matos.
"The facts of Garza's case are important," he said. "Seven of Garza's eight victims were Hispanic; the prosecutor in the case is Hispanic; the presiding judge is Hispanic; at least six of the jurors are Hispanic and all of the jurors individually certified that race, color, religious beliefs, national origin, and sex were not involved in reaching their respective decisions."
Newly installed Solicitor General Theodore Olson argued last week that Garza had long ago lost his argument about what his jury should have been told, and that he could not revive that claim now.
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