| Crime |

Before George Rivas's Execution, His Attorney Talks About the "Poster Boy for Death Penalty"

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It's been 11 years since George Rivas lead the Texas Seven in their escape from prison and shooting of a police officer, and the hour of his death is fast-approaching. At around 6 p.m, the State of Texas will end his life by lethal injection.

Rivas confessed that he was the ringleader of the group of rapists, murders and robbers that notoriously escaped from a Karnes County prison on December 13, 2000. Rivas was serving multiple life sentences for multiple crimes including an aggravated kidnapping, according to the Chicago Tribune, which notes that an Arizona prisoner will also be put to death today.

After a rash of robberies across the state, the Texas Seven held up the Oshman's in Irving, killing police officer Aubrey Hawkins and fleeing with more than $70,000 in cash, dozens of guns, ammunition and the jewelry and wallets of store employees.

The bullets that killed Hawkins came from several different guns. The group went on the run until they were captured in Colorado a month later. One of the seven committed suicide before their arrest; the other six were sentenced to death, and one has already been administered a lethal injection.

From the moment he and the others were caught in Colorado, Rivas knew this day would come, says Wayne Huff, his defense attorney during Rivas's original trial. By the time Huff met his new client in Colorado in 2001, Rivas had already confessed on national television, telling people that he expected -- and wanted -- the death penalty.

From the outset, Rivas made himself a "poster boy for the death penalty," Huff tells Unfair Park. "He was willing to take the blame for all of his co-defendants."

As far as defense tactics are concerned, there wasn't much of anything that called his guilt into question. Huff set out to convince at least one jury member that Rivas didn't deserve death. One would be enough to keep him in prison for life. But the jury unanimously agreed with Rivas: He deserved to die.

Rivas didn't make it a hard decision. "He's one of the few people that ever told the jury that he expected to get the death penalty and that he really wasn't afraid of it," Huff says. "I hadn't had anyone who basically from the beginning said he wanted it."

"This whole case is a tragedy and a waste of life. It's just a tragic waste of everything -- of George and the officer and all of that. It's just terrible," Huff says while adding that the system worked as it should in this case. Facts supported the jury's decision.

Dallas District Attorney Craig Watkins mentioned today's scheduled execution at an exoneration hearing last week, when he revealed that his great-grandfather had been put to death by the state and said it's time to revisit how and why Texas puts its prisoners to death. In December, he discussed his complex view on the issue with Unfair Park.

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