Supreme Court denies second appeal in Gulfport child rape/murder case

The body of 5-year-old Ja'Naya Thompson was found hanging in the bathroom of an abandoned...
The body of 5-year-old Ja'Naya Thompson was found hanging in the bathroom of an abandoned trailer, just across the street from her Gulfport apartment complex.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 4:19 PM CDT
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLOX) - For the second time, the State Supreme Court has denied post-conviction relief to Alberto Garcia, the Gulfport man convicted of raping and murdering 5-year-old Ja’Naya Thompson.

The child’s brutal death in 2014 rocked the Orange Grove neighborhood where it happened, and the entire coast community. On the eve of his 2017 capital murder trial, Garcia changed his plea to guilty, and admitted sexually assaulting and killing the girl.

Garcia was sentenced to death by Judge Lisa Dodson on Jan. 25, 2017. That decision was affirmed by the Supreme Court in 2020, and now again in 2023.

Garcia has claimed ineffective counsel, and contended his mental-health issues, like anxiety and previously undiagnosed autism, rendered him incompetent to stand trial and unable to plead guilty voluntarily.

After review, the state Supreme Court upheld trial court’s conclusion that Garcia was competent, his guilty plea was voluntary, his trial expert was competent and qualified, and his trial counsel’s performance was constitutionally effective.

“We therefore affirm the trial court’s denial of Garcia’s PCR petition seeking to set aside his guilty plea,” the court concluded.

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