Woman's plea to die is rejected

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The Independent Online


Guinevere Garcia's hopes of death by the executioner's needle were dashed by the Governor of Illinois yesterday when he commuted her sentence to life imprisonment.

Governor Jim Edgar exercised his legal prerogative to overturn a decision taken by the Illinois judiciary, and later by Garcia herself, less than 24 hours before the death sentence - for murder - was scheduled to be carried out.

The pardon was a victory for Amnesty International and other human rights groups which have been battling to deprive Garcia, a lifelong victim of atrocious sexual abuse and battery, of her wish to die. At a Prison Review Board hearing last Thursday Garcia, who murdered her husband in 1991, said in a statement tape-recorded in her prison cell that those who were petitioning for clemency on her behalf should stop interfering.

"Stay out of my case. Stay out of my life," she said. "I committed this crime ... I am competent to waive my right to appeal."

In making his decision yesterday, Mr Edgar said: "It is not the state's responsibility to carry out the wishes of a defendant".

"Guinevere Garcia should never be free again," the governor said in a statement, "but I have concluded that the punishment decreed for her was not typical."

The extenuating circumstances in Garcia's life which the governor identified but the courts failed to detect included: her mother's suicide when she was 18 months old; rape by an uncle between the ages of six and 11; gang- rape at the hands of five teenage boys when she was 14; going into prostitution when she was 15; and a vision of life as so desperate and cruel that when she was 17 she suffocated her new-born baby girl in what she saw as an act of mercy. After 10 years in jail for the child's murder she married George Garcia, who perpetuated a pattern of brutal abuse against her until she shot him.