Friday, June 10, 2011

It's Time For Texas To Execute International Law Not Mexican Nationals

Humberto Leal
One of the most fundamental tenets of international law is embodied in the Vienna Conventions on Consular Relations (VCCR), a treaty ratified by the United States and 172 other nations.  Article 36 of the VCCR provides that foreign nationals who are arrested must be advised of their right to have their consulate notified of their detention. This is important not only for citizens of other countries who are arrested here, but for Americans who find themselves in trouble overseas.

Humberto Leal GarcĂ­a was arrested by Texas authorities in 1994, and then tried, convicted and sentenced to death for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda.  Leal is a Mexican national, but he was not informed of his consular rights and the Mexican consulate was not notified of his plight prior to his death sentence.

Ten years later, in 2004, the International Court of Justice held that the United States had violated Article 36 of the Vienna Convention in Leal's case, as well as those of 50 other Mexican nationals on death row.  As a remedy, the ICJ held, the U.S. was required to provide judicial "review and reconsideration" of Leal's conviction and sentence to determine how he was prejudiced by the violation of his consular rights.

Here's how.  Had the Mexican consulate been notified of Leal's arrest, it would have, at minimum, ensured that he obtained a competent lawyer.  Instead, as Leal's current attorney Sandra Babcock explains, he received disgracefully inadequate legal representation at his trial.

One of his trial attorneys has been reprimanded or suspended from the practice of law on multiple occasions as a result of ethical violations. Mr. Leal was convicted on the basis of junk "bite mark" science, since discredited by the National Academy of Sciences, and patently unreliable forensic evidence. Although the prosecution's case was reed thin, his defense failed to effectively challenge any of this evidence. During his sentencing hearing, which lasted only a single day, Mr. Leal's attorneys failed to present any of the profoundly mitigating evidence that later came to light with the assistance of the Mexican government. The jury that sentenced Mr. Leal to death never learned that he was the victim of horrific sexual abuse by his parish priest, which had severe and lasting effects. Jurors never realized that Mr. Leal had struggled to overcome learning disabilities and frontal lobe brain damage and spent his childhood dodging neighborhood gangs and beatings from his parents. Based on the distorted, incomplete picture of Mr. Leal provided by the prosecution, he never stood a chance.
While the U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed our country's obligation to comply with the ICJ's decision, it determined that it would only be binding if Congress passed a law implementing it.  Texas has blatantly refused former President Bush's call to review the case in accordance with the ICJ's decision because they are not legally required to. 

This not the first time.  In 2008, Texas executed Jose Medillin, a Mexican national who was denied his consular rights, despite objections of the Bush Administration and the Mexican government.  (Mexico abolished the death penalty in 2005.)  Texas Governor Rick Perry asserted at the time:  "We’re concerned about following Texas law and that’s what we’re doing.”  It now intends to carry out Leal's execution, scheduled for July 7, even as Congress plans finally to pass legislation to make the ICJ decision binding.

Former top government officials, diplomats and military leaders who support Leal's clemency understand what Governor Perry does not.  That such a breach of international law could put at risk the lives of Americans abroad.  Retired military figures stressed, in a letter submitted with the clemency petition, that "the preservation of consular access protections is especially important for US military personnel, who when serving our country overseas are at greater risk of being arrested by a foreign government."

As Babcock says, "a stay of execution is essential to prevent an irreparable breach of the United States' treaty commitments, and to protect the rights of all Americans who rely on the protections of the Vienna Convention. And unless Mr. Leal receives a reprieve, he will die before he ever sees justice."

(Sign this petition to Urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Gov. Perry to stop the execution of Humberto Leal.  For more information about the case and how to help, go to


Anonymous said...

I went to high school with this sorry excuse for a human and let me tell you something. Sooner or later this guy was going to kill someone. He had serious issues with violence and a very very very BAD temper. I knew the victim and her mother which did some sub teaching at South San and her and her family did not deserve this. Petitioning for this a-hole not to be executed is the wrong thing to do. Please let the LAW do its job!!!

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