Moral Low Ground

US Government

Humberto Leal, Mexican Citizen Denied Consular Access in Violation of International Law, Executed in Texas

Illegal execution.

Question: Of North Korea, Iran, China and the United States, which is the only one that denies consular access to foreign prisoners prior to death penalty trials? If you answered USA, you’re right.

This evening, the state of Texas executed Humberto Leal, a Mexican citizen and undocumented immigrant, for the 1994 rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda in San Antonio. Authorities failed to inform Leal of his right to consular access, violating the Vienna Convention, which the United States signed. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, Netherlands ruled that Leal and 50 other death row inmates in the U.S. had been denied their rights and that the United States was in violation of international law.

But the United States, which cites international law as casus belli when it serves Washington’s goals, has shown great disdain for it when it is applied against our nation.

The state-sacntioned killing took place despite a request for a stay of execution from President Obama. His administration wanted more time for Congress to consider recently introduced legislation– the Consular Notification Compliance Act— that would allow new hearings to determine whether or not the rights of Leal and the 50 other foreign nationals on death rows had been violated. Apparently the ICJ ruling wasn’t good enough for the United States to accept as evidence of this, nor was a 2008 US Supreme Court acknowledgment that the ICJ decision was binding.

The Supreme Court once again found itself examining the Leal case, and in a last-minute ruling, along the usual politically-charged 5-4 line, rejected the Obama administration’s request.

“Our task,” the majority opinion stated, “is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be.”

The five justices who voted to send Leal to his death were, predictably, Antonin Scalia, Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito and Chief Justice John G. Roberts. Dissenting were Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Stephen G. Breyer, who wrote that executing Leal would “cause irreparable harm” to the “foreign policy interests of the highest order” and endanger the safety of Americans traveling abroad.

Also ignored was an appeal filed by Leal that argued his attorneys had not properly prepared for his trial. They failed to interview potential witnesses and they didn’t call expert witnesses to counter the evidence against him. The state’s forensic evidence has been described as “sloppy” and “less than conclusive.” In addition, allegations that Leal was raped by a priest as a child was not used as mitigating evidence.

The San Antonio Express-News reports that Leal was strapped into the gurney in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville and began his final statement at 6:10 pm. After a brief exchange with prosecutor Robert McClure, Leal said “I am sorry for the victim’s family and what I did. May they forgive me… I have hurt a lot of people. Let this be final and be done. I take the full blame for this. I am sorry and forgive me. I am truly sorry.” He finished by saying “One more thing: Viva Mexico, Viva Mexico. Ready warden, let’s get this show on the road!”

The show hit the road, and the lethal dose of death drugs hit Leal’s blood. He was pronounced dead at 6:21 pm. The family of his victim was not present.

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