One of America's most infamous death-row inmates will face execution by lethal injection today.

Joseph Garcia, 47, is a member of the notorious Texas 7, who pulled off the biggest prison break-out in the state's history before embarking on a holiday season crime spree that left a Dallas police officer dead.

Garcia, then 29, was serving a 50-year sentence for fatally stabbing a man during an argument when he became part of the escape plot in 2000.

The gang of seven spent months carefully plotting the breakout from the maximum security Connally Unit in Karnes County, about 100 kilometres south of San Antonio.

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On December 13, Garcia, Randy Halprin, Larry Harper, Patrick Murphy Jr, Donald Newbury, George Rivas, and Michael Rodriguez made their sensational escape.

"You haven't heard the last of us"

Rivas, was already serving 17 life sentences, was the ringleader. He masterminded the audacious plan to overpower a supervisor and tie up civilian workers as hostages.

Two of the gang dressed up as prison workers to sneak into the armoury, where they overpowered another employee and took control of the guard tower.

The gang loaded a maintenance truck and with guns and workers' clothes before making their getaway, leaving a note warning: "You haven't heard the last of us yet."

After two robberies in the Houston area, they headed north as a massive police manhunt got underway by road and helicopter.

On Christmas Eve, the escapees posed as security guards, holding up a sporting goods store in Irving, northwest of Dallas, stealing $95,000, 44 guns and winter clothing. They also took jewellery and wallets from staff who were closing up for the night.

As they were leaving, they were approached by local police officer Aubrey Hawkins. The inmates surrounded his police car and shot him 11 times before pulling him out of the vehicle and running over his body in their stolen SUV as they left.

Texas police officer Aubrey Hawkins was killed by the gang on Christmas Eve during a holdup at a sporting goods store. Photo / Getty Images
Texas police officer Aubrey Hawkins was killed by the gang on Christmas Eve during a holdup at a sporting goods store. Photo / Getty Images

The gang fled to Colorado, but after they were featured on America's Most Wanted almost a month later, tip-offs from the public led police to the fugitives.

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Five of them were found posing as Christian missionaries at a trailer park, having tried to disguise their appearance, with one dying his hair blond and another orange-red.

Locals in Woodland Park said they had heard the gang blasting Christian rock music. One woman told CNN she had been to church with one of the escapees, who said his name was Jim and he was travelling with friends. She described him as well-groomed and said he seemed like a clean-cut college student.

Garcia, Rivas, Halprin and Rodriguez were captured by a SWAT team at the trailer park. Harper, a convicted rapist, shot himself in the chest himself before the authorities could take him back into custody.

Three days later, with the reward for their capture reaching $680,000, police arrested Newbury and Murphy at a Holiday Inn in Colorado Springs. Twelve loaded firearms were found in their hotel room.

"I am ready to go"

The gang were all sent to death row.

Rodriguez, who was originally serving a life sentence for arranging his wife's murder, was the first to be executed in 2008, after the 45-year-old ordered all his appeals dropped.

With his last breath before receiving the lethal injection, he apologised repeatedly for his crimes.

"My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I've brought you," he said. "I'm not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don't know if I am worthy.

"I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I've done horrible things that brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people," he added, looking directly at his former sister-in-law and the Officer Hawkins' widow.

Rivas, 41, was put to death in 2012. His last words were an apology to the slain officer's family. "I do apologise for everything that happened, not because I am here, but for closure in your hearts," he said. "I am ready to go."

Newbury, who was originally serving 99 years for a series of armed robberies, was executed in 2015. The 52-year-old had faced a string of disciplinary cases while on death row, including assaulting corrections officers, possessing weapons and rioting.

Swat Team officers keep a close eye on a Quality Inn motel near where two Texas fugitives abandoned a van. Photo / Getty Images
Swat Team officers keep a close eye on a Quality Inn motel near where two Texas fugitives abandoned a van. Photo / Getty Images

In a 2003 interview with The Associated Press, Newbury said he would still escape if he could do it all over again. "I had 99 years," he said. "What did I have to lose?"

Former Dallas County District Attorney Toby Shook said Newbury "really likes coming across as the bad outlaw."

Halprin, 41, and Murphy, 57, do not have execution dates and remain on death row in Texas with Garcia.

Garcia's lawyers are trying to stall his death, arguing that problems with the lethal drug compound mean "unreasonable risk of a cruel execution".

The death-row inmate says he was still inside the building during the shooting of Officer Hawkins, but the state convicted him under the "law of parties", a statute that holds non-shooters responsible for killings they could have anticipated.

He has also always maintained that the stabbing attack he was originally jailed for was self-defence.

But many in Texas, particularly Officer Hawkins' friends family, want to see his death sentence carried out.

Federal agents look over a van abandoned January 23, 200 in Colorado Springs, by two fugitives from a Texas prison. Photo / Getty Images
Federal agents look over a van abandoned January 23, 200 in Colorado Springs, by two fugitives from a Texas prison. Photo / Getty Images

"He was one of the more violent ones during the prison breakout," Mr Shook told the Houston Chronicle. "The hostages described him as one of the more violent ones, who made threats and went out of his way to frighten them."

The prosecutor said that at some point, one of the other men claimed Garcia fired the fatal shot, adding that his execution after almost 18 years would be "satisfying".

Garcia's execution has already been delayed and he has two other pending appeals, in addition to a long-shot request for clemency that is in front of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

If those efforts all fail, Garcia will become the 12th prisoner put to death this year in the state.

Texas has by far the most executions in the United States, with 556 inmates put to death since 1976.