America executes its second federal prisoner in eight days

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The Independent US

The Mexican-born drug smuggler and murderer Juan Raul Garza was executed by lethal injection at dawn yesterday after all his appeals failed. As the second federal prisoner to be put to death in eight days, Garza was executed in the same chamber, at the same prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, where Timothy McVeigh, the Oklahoma City bomber, had been executed the week before.

This time barely 50 people turned out to protest against the death penalty, and only a few journalists were in the prison briefing room to be told the sentence had been carried out. Apart from his lawyer, the only people to plead for Garza's life were members of his family, who gave a televised interview.

Garza had been due to die last year, but his execution was put on hold by former president Clinton pending an investigation into whether the disproportionate number of ethnic minority prisoners on Death Row reflected injustice in the system. The results of the investigation were released last week by the current Attorney General, John Ashcroft, who said there was no evidence that ethnic minorities were more likely to be put on trial for their life than whites. The inquiry found, however, that more white prisoners avoided the death penalty by accepting plea-bargains for life imprisonment without parole.

The Mexican authorities had written to the US Justice Department in December, saying they would not have extradited Garza if they had known he would face the death penalty. They made no further intervention, however.