The Case of George Rivas on Texas Death Row

I saw the case of George Rivas on Court TV last night. The story is interesting for many reasons. He was a college student with two children. He was born on May 6, 1970. He committed several robberies, but always took care to see that his victims were not injured.

His first downfall came in El Paso, Texas, when he posed as a company investigator investigating company theft. He took 13 people prisoner while robbing their store. The police happened by and arrested him. For this, he was given 13 life sentences, one for each person he detained, even though nobody was injured.
George Rivas
George Rivas mug shot on Texas Death Row

After several years in prison, Rivas engineered a brilliant escape with six of his fellow prisoners. In December, 2000, they escaped in a prison van. Nobody was injured. They later stole a car to get rid of the van. They then robbed a store for $70,000 and again nobody was injured.

With this $70,000, they purchased a SUV and drove to Colorado. Posing as Bible Reading Christian Missionaries, they lived in a trailer camp site for several weeks. Unfortunately, somebody recognized them from a website and they were arrested.

During their more than one month on the run, they had committed a robbery in Dallas. A police officer had happened by. They told the officer several times to put his hands up, but he did not do so. Finally, he was shot and killed. Some of the members of the Dallas 7 were unhappy about this, especially since they always had gone to great lengths to make sure that nobody was ever hurt. This probably contributed to their ultimate capture.

Because of this killing, George Rivas and the other members of the Dallas 7 were tried for murder, except for Larry Harper who had died, perhaps by suicide, when they were being arrested. Rivas, as the leader of the group, received the death sentence, although he was not the triggerman. Two others, Michael Rodriguez and Donald Newberry, received the death sentence as well. They are all now on Texas Death Row and their pictures are available on the Texas Death Row website.

This does raise some question about Texas Justice under Governor George W. Bush. Thirteen life sentences seems to be excessive for a simple robbery in which nobody was injured. This excessive sentence drove George Rivas to try to escape from prison. The fact that in the course of his criminal career, which included several other robberies plus an escape from prison, nobody was ever injured in even the slightest way, except for the unfortunate incident in Dallas which was clearly not the fault of Rivas, it seems that the death penalty might be excessive.

Sam Sloan

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