Texas carried out its 12th execution of the year on Thursday night in Huntsville. Robert Rene Garza, 30, was put to death by lethal injection for a September 2002 gang ambush in Hidalgo County that left four women dead. Garza, who was an admitted leader of a Rio Grande Valley gang, was convicted on two counts of capital murder for his participation in the shootings. All of his appeals were rejected at the state level and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review an appeal filed by his attorneys earlier this year. But the high court did review Garza's own appeal filed on Thursday, which delayed the execution by more than two hours. The justices rejected that appeal Thursday evening.
There were several witnesses on hand for the execution. "On the offender’s side was (Garza's) mother, wife, stepfather, and several friends," says Jason Clark, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. "On the victims' side, there was the brother, daughter, and sister of some of the victims." Garza reportedly smiled and blew a kiss to his friends and relatives as they entered, then gave a brief final statement. "He said I want to thank all of my family and friends for supporting me, I love you and I'm glad that you're all here by my side through this whole thing, I know it's hard for you," recounted Clark. "At the end of his statement he said support and love each other, don't fight with each other, I love you."
Garza's execution came on the same day the TDCJ answered questions about whether it will continue to use the drug pentobarbital in executions. The state has said its inventory of the drug will run out at the end of this month, but Clark told the Associated Press "we have not changed our current execution protocol and have no immediate plans to do so." He didn't say how the state will replenish its supply of the drug. At least six Texas death row inmates are still scheduled for execution before the end of the year, including one next week.