Jesse Garcia, a Utah man whose death sentence for murder was commuted in 1962 just hours before he was scheduled to face the firing squad, won't get his next chance to leave prison life for 10 years.
Garcia's case was heard Friday afternoon in front of the Utah State Board of Pardons. The board, under the direction of Chairwoman Victoria Palacios, set Garcia's next parole hearing for February 1999. Garcia has been incarcerated out of state for safety reasons since 1981, and waived his right to appear before the board.Garcia, now 47, has spent 30 years in prison. He was originally imprisoned May 1, 1958, for the rape of his five-year-old niece. He was 16.
He and inmate Mack Merrill Rivenburgh were sentenced to death for the fatal stabbing in the prison attic of inmate Joseph LeRoy Verner, Chicago, in August 1958. Rivenburgh's sentence wasn't set aside, and he committed suicide in his cell the night before his scheduled execution. A third inmate received a life sentence in the prison for his part in the brutal slaying, and has since been paroled.
Less than 12 hours before Garcia was scheduled to be executed in September 1962, the Board of Pardons commuted his sentence. "The three men sitting behind this table - if you are not on the up-and-up - are going to be disappointed beyond words," said then Chairman J.J. Kelly, as reported in the Deseret News. "You have won your own case here today with me, because you were able to look a man straight in the eye."
When Garcia was paroled in August 1979, he had served more consecutive time than any other inmate at the prison.
Garcia pleaded guilty to a November 1979 Granger robbery and burglary, where he and another man threatened a five-year-old girl with a butcher knife. Then Third District Judge Christine M. Durham ordered him to begin serving two 1-to-15 year sentences concurrent with the remainder of his life sentence for murder.