In the 1980s and 1990s, Juan Garza ran two businesses; a successful construction company in Brownsville, Texas, and a marijuana smuggling operation that operated between Mexico and Texas, Louisiana, and Michigan.
Suspecting that some of his employees in the smuggling business were cooperating with police, Garza ordered the murders of Gilberto Matos in April 1990 and Erasmo De Le Fuente in September 1990. He also shot and killed Thomas Rumbo in January 1991. Garza was also suspected in four murders in Mexico.
After U.S. Customs officers raided his Brownsville home on February 6, 1992, Garza fled to Mexico. He was arrested there on November 6, 1992. Extradited to the United States, he was indicted on January 3, 1992, on multiple charges under the Continuing Criminal Enterprise provisions of the federal Anti-Drug Abuse Act of 1988. Also known as the “Drug Kingpin Act,” this drug war-era legislation provided the death penalty for killings that occur as part of a drug enterprise.
U.S Attorney General William Barr, who as the Trump Administration’s Attorney General facilitated and oversaw all thirteen of the federal executions that occurred in the last months of his term, approved the capital charges against Garza.
Garza’s trial began on July 7, 1993. He was convicted on July 29 and sentenced to death on August 10.
After multiple unsuccessful appeals, an effort by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to reverse Garza’s sentence, and clemency petitions to President Clinton and President Bush, Juan Raul Garza was executed at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, on June 19, 2001.
Garza was the first person and, along with Cory Johnson, one of only two people, executed under the “Drug Kingpin” statute.
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