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Wednesday, 29 August, 2001, 21:35 GMT 22:35 UK
Texas jailbreaker sentenced to death
George Rivas
George Rivas was already serving 18 life sentences
The man who led one of the biggest prison escapes in United States history has been sentenced to death for killing a policeman while on the run.

George Rivas was the first of the seven jailbreakers to be tried for shooting the police officer during a bungled robbery in Dallas, Texas, on Christmas Eve last year.

What you call the death penalty, I call freedom

George Rivas
Rivas, 31, had asked for the death penalty after being convicted last week of capital murder.

The breakout on 13 December from Connally Unit in Kennedy, south Texas, sparked a massive manhunt for the group, who remained at large for five weeks.

Armed and dangerous

The men were armed with 44 weapons, stolen clothing and $77,000 in cash and are alleged to have carried out three armed robberies while on the run.

Texas and Colorado
The fugitives were tracked down to a trailer park in Colorado
In one raid, at a sports store in Dallas, the fugitives shot policeman Aubrey Hawkins 11 times before running over him in a getaway car.

The group hid out in a vehicle park in the town of Woodland Park, Colorado, and were eventually tracked down after being recognised from America's Most Wanted television programme.

Six of the escapees gave themselves up on 22 January this year, while a seventh committed suicide.

Maximum penalty

Rivas, who was serving 18 life sentences when he escaped, confessed to killing Mr Hawkins and asked for the maximum sentence.

"What you call the death penalty, I call freedom. I can finally be free. I'm telling you right now I don't want another life sentence," Rivas told the jury.

Rivas had said he had only meant to disarm Mr Hawkins, believing the policeman was reaching for his gun.

Dallas County prosecutors have said they will also seek the death penalty for the other convicts.

See also:

13 Aug 01 | Americas
'Texas seven' leader goes on trial
23 Jan 01 | Americas
Suicide as Texas convicts recaptured
12 Jan 01 | Americas
Warders blamed for Texas jailbreak
05 Jan 01 | Americas
Sightings reported in Texas manhunt
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