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Mexican national executed despite protests

July 10, 2011

Efforts to prevent the execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia have failed, despite appeals by the Mexican government, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and the Barack Obama administration.

Repeated attempts by Mexico’s secretary of Foreign Affairs and the ambassador to the United States to force Texas to adhere to international law proved fruitless, as Leal – who was not made aware of his right to consular aid at the time of his arrest – was executed on Thursday, July 7, 6 p.m. in the Huntsville state penitentiary.

In a last-minute 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled against delaying the execution, just one hour before Leal was taken to the death chamber. The slim judicial majority voiced skepticism over whether Congress would pass the “hypothetical legislation” to outlaw Leal’s execution.

In a written statement, Leal’s attorney called the outcome “shameful” and said the United States had “stumbled in its commitment to the rule of law.”

Leal, 38, moved to the United States at the age of two and was convicted of the rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda in San Antonio in 1994. However, in violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention, he was not told that he could seek legal advice from the Mexican consulate.

Leal’s defense maintains that had he been granted access to the consulate he would not have been convicted, much less given the death penalty. “Unfortunately, Mexico’s assistance came too late to affect the result of Mr. Leal’s capital murder prosecution,” Leal’s attorneys told a Texas courtroom in a clemency request rejected on Tuesday.

Texas Governor Rick Perry described the case as “the most heinous of crimes” and resisted pressure from the White House to delay the execution until new legislation passes forcing the state to comply with international law.

In 2004 the ICJ ruled that Leal and 50 other Mexicans were entitled to judicial hearings to determine whether their human rights had been breached. Although then President George W. Bush said the United States would abide by the decision, he was overruled by the Supreme Court which found Texas was not obliged to comply under current legislation.

Intervening on the eve of the execution, the Obama administration said the United States must “demonstrate respect for the international rule of law,” and warned Leal’s execution would cause “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad, where American citizens expect consular aid in the event of any legal dispute.

Leal’s case echoes that of Mexican national Jose Ernesto Medellin Rojas, who was also executed in Texas in August 2008 following a breach of the Vienna Convention.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 11, 2011 20:05

    Congrats on your first article Duncan. An important one too, they didn’t ease you in to the job did they!

  2. July 11, 2011 21:03

    Cheers Sticky! yeah definitely hit the ground running!

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  1. Texas Governor proposes US army presence in Mexico « The Tequila Files

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