Supreme Court Denies Obama Request to Stay Execution

July 8th, 2011

By Dan Miller

Humberto LealUpdate: Sr. Leal is no longer among us, having quite properly been executed.

Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. is still scheduled to be executed today in Texas, the Supreme Court having denied a request in which the Obama Administration had joined to stay it.

The U.S. Supreme Court today rejected a bid by the Obama administration to spare the life of a Mexican national set for execution for the 1994 rape-murder of a San Antonio teenager.

Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., 38, is to be put to death at 6 p.m. today.

His case gained international attention because arresting authorities did not advise him of his right to contact his nation’s consulate. Failing to do so violated the United Nations’ Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and Leal’s advocates said, puts Americans held for offenses in foreign countries at risk.

Leal was sentenced to die for the May 1994 killing of Adria Sauceda, 16, whose nude body was found on a rural road near San Antonio. She had been bludgeoned with a chunk of concrete.

The Mexican government, former American diplomats and the Obama administration joined in calling for a stay in the case. …

The Supreme Court noted that it could not grant a stay to allow for the possible passage of the Leahy bill. “Our task is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be,” the court ruled.

The court also discounted arguments that “grave international consequences” may follow Leal’s execution.

“We have no authority to stay an execution in light of ‘an appeal of the president’ presenting free-ranging assertions of foreign policy consequences, when those assertions come unaccompanied by persuasive legal claim.”

Unless Governor Perry unexpectedly delays the execution, it may have happened before this is posted.  It should.

Further Update:  Mexico is all upset.

MEXICO CITY – Mexico condemns “in the most energetic terms” the execution of a Mexican national at a prison in Huntsville, Texas, the country’s foreign ministry said.

The death by lethal injunction of convicted murderer Humberto Leal Garcia was a “clear disobedience” of the 2004 order from the International Court of Justice that the United States review the death sentences of 51 Mexicans then awaiting execution in Texas because they had been denied their right to consular assistance at the time of arrest, the ministry said in a statement. …

The Mexican government, the Obama administration and dozens of former U.S. officials, diplomats and military officers all urged Perry to suspend the execution pending a vote in Congress on a bill to comply with the 2004 ICJ decision.

In that March 31, 2004, ruling, the ICJ said Texas had violated the rights of Leal and other Mexican nationals by failing to inform them of their right to consular assistance under the Vienna Convention, to which both the United States and Mexico are party.

Mexico’s foreign ministry deplored Perry’s decision not to delay the execution and said the Texas governor refused on Thursday even to accept a call from the Mexican ambassador in Washington, Arturo Sarukhan.

A formal protest over “this violation of international law” has been conveyed to the U.S. State Department, the ministry said.

The article does not mention the decision of the Supreme Court on the matter, noted here.  The States, to the apparent disappointment of some in the Obama Administration and others who seem not to have a clue on the subject, still retain at least some vestiges of sovereignty.

(This article was also posted at Dan Miller’s Blog.)

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10 Responses to “Supreme Court Denies Obama Request to Stay Execution”

  1. Tom Carter |

    I can see the complaint — that the accused should have been able to contact his consulate. But I think the Court’s decision was correct, for a variety of reasons. In any event, it seems unlikely that the case would have come out differently.

    I saw the report that said Leal cried, “Viva Mexico! Viva Mexico!” as he was dying. I don’t know if that’s true. I also have to wonder if he was in the U.S. legally when he committed the crime.

    The value and power of the International Court of Justice, like all similar organs, is once again shown to be a myth. There is no such thing as “international law,” in the accepted use of the term “law.” The highest level of sovereignty rests with states, and international organizations have no power to enforce their decisions unless individual states acquiesce. As far as conventions and treaties are concerned, we should follow them, yes, but not when they contradict our own laws. Sovereignty will always prevail. And along those lines, why do we express more concern about these kinds of things that other governments do, given their actual performance in most cases?

    And Mexico? Nothing much will happen. Mexico is on the verge of being a failed criminal state, and despite their expressed hatred for the U.S., they couldn’t live without our support and charity.

  2. Dan Miller |

    Tom, I agree that Sr. Leal should have been permitted to contact the Mexican consulate. As I understand the situation, nobody prevented him from doing so; he simply was not officially advised that he could. He had counsel who could (and may) have advised him; presumably, he had friends and jail mates who could (and may) have advised him.

    There are some barriers to determining whether someone apprehended in the commission of a crime is an alien. As noted in the Ninth Circuit decision upholding an earlier district court decision to much the same effect, a section of the rejected Arizona immigration statute was rejected. It stated

    S.B. 1070 Section 2(B) provides, in the first sentence, that when officers have reasonable suspicion that someone they have lawfully stopped, detained, or arrested is an unauthorized immigrant, they “shall” make “a reasonable attempt . . . when practicable, to determine the immigration status” of the person. Ariz. Rev. Stat. Ann. § 11-1051(B) (2010). Section 2(B)’s second and third sentences provide that “[a]ny person who is arrested shall have the person’s immigration status determined before the person is released,” and “[t]he person’s immigration status shall be verified with the federal government.” Id. The Section’s fifth sentence states that a “person is presumed to not be an alien who is unlawfully present in the United States if the person provides” a form of identification included in a prescribed list.

    I commented on the Ninth Circuit decision here, as I had on the district court decision here.

    To the extent that it is deemed unlawful to inquire into the citizenship or immigration status of a person thought to have committed a crime, it is difficult to know whether to advise him of a right to contact a consulate and, if so, which one. Mexican? Venezuelan? Honduran? Should all of our “little brown brothers” be advised that they can contact a consulate if they think they have one? How about an immigrant who does not “look Mexican?” Suppose he speaks English as well as you or I and has blond hair and blue eyes?

    One point, however:

    The highest level of sovereignty rests with states, and international organizations have no power to enforce their decisions unless individual states acquiesce. As far as conventions and treaties are concerned, we should follow them, yes, but not when they contradict our own laws.

    That’s almost but not entirely correct. Treaties, as distinguished from other international agreements and treaties, become the law of the land when ratified — as do ordinary laws passed by the Congress and signed by the President. They do remain inferior to the Constitution, but to the extent in conflict with previously enacted federal laws treaties supersede them.

  3. Tom Carter |

    Dan, I understand your last point about the legal status of treaties. However, the U.S. (like other nations) will violate a treaty when a significant national interest is at stake. Also, treaties have to be implemented in law, in most instances, and this one clearly hadn’t been sufficiently implemented, given the arguments.

  4. Who cares |

    If they came in US and hurt someone, they deserve for not having any rights. Kill them for what they did very wrong. We the tax payers have been paying too much for thier rights? hell now way

  5. Dan Miller |

    The likelihood that legislation might be passed subjugating the States to orders of the International Court of Justice strikes me as only very slightly greater than the bodily ascension of Sr. Leal to sit on the right hand of Zeus.

  6. Really? |

    It makes no difference! If he got the rights back then, then what? Send him back to Mexico for raping-killing the young girl? I don’t think so! He would be dead by today anyway if he got the rights back then. I think Leal deserved to die or be executed in 1994! Geez, tax payers have been feeding him for years. Hey Leak, this is for the life’s life you stole…Go to hell, Leal the azzhole!

  7. Really? |

    Correction: Hey Leak,t his is for the young girl’s life you stole…

  8. Me |

    I don’t care about the rights. He killed her, end of the discussion. I don’t care about what the laws say this and that. Use you head. He got caught and he said he killed her. Why does Mexico want him to stay and live longer? What’s good? Yes, I agree he should be dead in 1994. He got free food from US taxes since 1994. That’s a long time. Get over it, Mexico.

  9. Brian |

    Tom and Dan, good points. If officers are forbidden from inquiring into the nationality of suspects who may be foreign nationals, how on earth are they going to be able to advise a suspect that he/she has the right to contact the consular office of the suspect’s home country? And then to attempt to penalize our criminal justice system for “not permitting” the suspect to avail themselves of their consular office is, literally, an absurdity.

    It’s spelled C-O-N-T-R-A-D-I-C-T-I-O-N.

  10. D. Dixon McClure |

    He was brought to the US as tiny child… round 2 I believe. I’m not sure that he even knew that he wasn’t an American at the time of his arrest. He had an attorney…a GOOD one paid for by the county where he committed the crime. All he had to do was ask his lawyer to contact the Mexican gov for him and it would have been done.

    I said GOOD attorney because if you don’t pony up for a good one you are wasting your time prosecuting because it will be over turned for lack of competent legal representation. Then the county gets to pay for ANOTHER multi-million dollar prosecution.

    There are places in Texas in poorer counties where you are almost guaranteed no death penalty because the county is too poor to afford one of those long drawn out death penalty cases. The county gets to foot the bill for both sides all the way through the trial and the appeals.

    This guy was “Viva Mexico” but had never lived there. If he had wanted to kill young ladies and not be executed, all he needed to do was go south of the border to kill.

    I’m not real big on the death penalty but this guy was a mad dog that killed for no apparent reason. My guess is that this wasn’t his only kill. Irregardless, it was his LAST one. I don’t think that killing should be used as punishment or revenge BUT you just have to kill a mad dog to protect the innocent.

    I feel sorry his family, they lost a child just as his victims family did. That is always a shame.

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