PSYCHIATRIST: leader of escaped prisoners shows no remorse, can't be rehabilitated


Monday, August 27th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



DALLAS (AP) _ The prisoner who led a gang of escapees is a ``manipulating mastermind'' who shows no remorse for his actions and can't be rehabilitated, a psychiatrist testified Monday during the sentencing phase of his capital murder trial.

``You don't get a conscience at this age and after this type of behavior,'' said Dr. Richard E. Coons.

George Rivas, 31, was convicted last week of killing Irving police Officer Aubrey Hawkins during a Christmas Eve robbery of a sporting goods store.

Defense attorneys hoping to spare Rivas from the death penalty had objected to Coons' testimony, but were overruled. Rivas was serving 17 life sentences for armed robbery and kidnapping when he escaped in December with six fellow inmates.

Jurors must decide whether to sentence Rivas to death or life in prison.

Coons, a forensic psychiatrist, first examined Rivas' file in 1994. At the time, he called Rivas a prolific criminal likely to be involved in prison gang activity.

Defense attorneys have tried to portray him as polite and compassionate, someone who left ice water for hostages at the prison and told them he would not hurt them if they cooperated. They also have argued that Rivas never intended to murder Hawkins.

Prosecutor Toby Shook gave Coons a ``hypothetical'' situation that matched Rivas' exact criminal history, which prosecutors said began at age 11 when he molested a 6-year-old relative.

Coons said the depiction indicates a controlling con-artist who continued ``business as usual'' after killing a police officer.

``The person we are talking about is a manipulating mastermind ... getting other people following, doing his bidding,'' he said.

Defense attorney Wayne Huff said the escape embarrassed the prison system and made Rivas a candidate for solitary confinement, where he would not be a danger to others.

During the trial, dozens of witnesses testified that Rivas' criminal career began with the molestation of his relative as well as armed robberies. He was sentenced to 17 life terms for armed robbery and kidnapping stemming from two 1993 holdups.

Prosecutors say the seven inmates escaped Dec. 13 from a South Texas prison and robbed two Houston-area stores before heading to north Texas and killing Hawkins.

Rivas is the first to be tried for murder since the gang was apprehended Jan. 22 in Colorado after a nationwide manhunt.

Rivas has admitted he orchestrated the meticulously planned escape from the Connally Unit, and fired some of the 11 shots that struck Hawkins.