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Entries in Humberto Leal (2)

Thursday
Jul072011

Supreme Court Refuses to Delay Texas Execution

USA Getty/David J. Sams

UPDATE: Humberto Leal was executed Thursday evening at a state prison in Huntsville, Texas. Prison officials pronounced him dead at 6:21 p.m. local time.

(WASHINGTON) -- A divided Supreme Court refused Thursday evening to delay the execution of a Mexican national on death row, despite pleas from top officials of the Obama administration.

Humberto Leal is scheduled to die Thursday night, and now only Texas Governor Rick Perry can delay the execution.

Leal argued that his rights were violated because he was never informed of his ability to seek legal assistance from the Mexican Consulate in violation of the Vienna Convention. The United States urged the Supreme Court to delay the execution long enough for Congress to pass legislation to facilitate U.S. compliance with consular notification and provide judicial review for Leal and others who were denied access.

But Justice Antonin Scalia, joined by Chief Justice John Roberts, Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Anthony Kennedy and Justice Clarence Thomas rejected the administration’s request.

“We are doubtful” wrote Scalia, “that it is ever appropriate to stay a lower court judgment in light of un-enacted legislation. Our task is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be.”

The majority criticized the government for claiming that the execution could cause grave international consequences. “Congress evidently did not find these consequences sufficiently grave to prompt its enactment of implementing legislation, and we will follow the law as written by Congress.”

Justice Stephen Breyer, writing a dissent joined by Justices Elena Kagan, Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said he would have granted a delay of the execution.

Breyer writes that the majority “ignores the appeal of the President in a matter related to foreign affairs, it substitutes its own views about the likelihood of congressional action for the views of Executive Branch officials who have consulted with Members of Congress."

Leal is currently in state prison in Huntsville, Texas, awaiting his execution.  He’s been given his last meal of fried chicken, pico de gallo, tacos and fried okra.

Sandra L. Babcock, Leal’s attorney issued a statement saying, “Today the United States stumbled in its commitment to the rule of law.  Mr. Leal, tragically, will suffer the consequences.  He will be executed tonight, despite the fact that his right to consular assistance was violated.  If he had had the assistance of the Mexican consulate at the time of trial, Mr. Leal would have had a meaningful opportunity to show that he was not guilty of capital murder."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
Jul062011

Man Set for Execution in Texas Despite Obama's Pleas for Delay

David J. Sams/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Lawyers for the Obama administration are taking the unusual step of asking the Supreme Court to delay the execution scheduled for Thursday of a Mexican national who is on death row in Texas.

Humberto Leal, who has lived in the United States since he was 2 years old, is set to be executed for the 1994 kidnapping, rape and murder of Adria Sauceda, a 16-year-old girl.

But Leal's case has been complicated by the fact that he and other Mexican nationals on death row across the country were never informed of their right to seek legal assistance from the Mexican consulate.  Such a failure of notification is a violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations -- a treaty that the United States is a party to -- which says that foreigners in custody have the right to consular notification, communication and access.

"The violation of the Vienna Convention in Mr. Leal's case was no mere technicality," said Sandra Babcock, who serves as Leal's lead counsel. "The Mexican consulate would have provided experienced and highly qualified attorneys who would have challenged the prosecution's reliance on junk science to obtain a conviction and would have presented powerful mitigating evidence at the penalty phase, including expert testimony regarding Mr. Leal's learning disabilities, brain damage, and sexual abuse at the hands of his parish priest."

The case is generating interest at the highest levels of the U.S. government from officials who do not want to send a message abroad that foreigners in custody have no right to consular notification.  But it also has stirred a debate about the role of international courts and state death penalty convictions.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the principal judicial body of the United Nations, determined that Leal and some 50 other Mexican Nationals on death row in the United States were entitled to judicial hearings to determine whether there had been a breach of their rights.

After the ruling, then President George W. Bush directed state courts to review the cases.  But Texas pushed back, arguing that U.S. state courts were not subject to the rulings of an International Court.

In 2008, the issue reached the Supreme Court, which said that Congress would have to pass legislation in order for the ICJ decision to be enforced.

But it was only last month that Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced the Consular Notification Compliance Act, which was meant to facilitate U.S. compliance with consular notification and provide judicial review for these particular foreign nationals who were denied access to their consulate.

As things stand now, the law has no chance of passing before the planned execution of Leal.  Only the Supreme Court or Gov. Rick Perry of Texas have the power to delay the execution and Perry has indicated that he is not sympathetic to the international court's finding.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio