Catholic state prosecutor in ex-priest’s murder trial balanced faith with duty

EDINBURG — Nearly a week removed from getting a conviction in a historic trial, even exhaling proved challenging.

After all, securing a conviction in what was arguably the region’s biggest trial proved much more complicated for the lead prosecutor on the case, a devout Catholic, considering that the person he was trying to convict was a former man of the cloth.

Michael J. Garza, an assistant district attorney for Hidalgo County and the man responsible for finally bringing ex-priest John Feit to justice, felt uneasy days after a jury found Feit guilty of murdering Irene Garza during the 1960 Holy Week.

The case was 57 years in the making and produced a trial that included evidence and testimony of a church-led cover-up to avoid bad publicity. But even in the days after state District Judge Luis Singleterry hammered the gavel for the final time during trial, Garza still struggled to pinpoint the uneasiness.

“I was proud and happy inside, but I felt this sort of presence — some kind of … maybe I didn’t want it to be over,” Garza said Wednesday of the case that consumed nearly three years of his time. “(The Irene Garza case) had been a big part of my life.”