The U.S. Supreme Court has until Thursday to intervene before Texas is scheduled to put to death a convicted murderer and rapist from Mexico whose execution could place the U.S. in violation of a 38-year international treaty.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected Humberto Leal Garcia’s bid for a 180-day stay of execution, leaving only Gov. Rick Perry and the high court standing in the way of his lethal injection at the Texas State Penitentiary at Huntsville.
Perry, a Republican considering joining the GOP race for president, is indicating he has no interest in stopping the execution. “If you commit the most heinous of crimes in Texas, you can expect to face the ultimate penalty under our laws,” his spokeswoman told the Daily Caller, adding that he’s yet to make a final decision.
Leal, 38, was convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in San Antonio. He is a Mexican citizen who was never informed of his right to speak with Mexican consular officials after his arrest, as he is allowed under the U.S.-ratified 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
The International Court of Justice in The Hague in 2004 found the U.S. in breach of its international consular obligations with regard to Leal and 50 other cases, but the Supreme Court the next year ruled that only Congress can force states to abide by the treaty.
Last month, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, introduced a bill to require local law enforcement jurisdictions inform foreign nationals of their right to speak with consular officials. But the chances of legislation passing quickly enough to spare Leal, even with a 180-day stay, are slim given the current political environment in Congress.
The Leal case has brought together unlikely allies. Both President Barack Obama, former President George W. Bush and the United Nations have all asked Perry to stay the execution. Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. on Friday filed an amicus brief with the high court arguing “vital national interests” would be harmed if Texas executes Leal.
“Ensuring that the United States complies with its international obligations regarding consular notification and access serves vital national interests,” Verrilli wrote in the brief. “These interests include protecting Americans abroad, fostering cooperation with foreign nations, and demonstrating respect for the international rule of law.”
The solicitor general and others backing a stay or retrial have argued that if Leal is executed, Americans jailed abroad will see less access to attorneys at U.S. embassies and consulates.
Leal’s attorney, Northwestern University law professor Sandra Babcock, wrote in the Dallas Morning News that Perry or the Supreme Court must issue a stay to avoid “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 the founder and president of The Constitution Project, a nonpartisan group which generally opposes the death penalty, said Leal’s execution would have a chilling effect on the estimated 2,500 Americans imprisoned overseas.
“Consular access also enhances the truth-seeking function at the heart of American justice, and provides an indispensable protection for foreign nationals who are unfamiliar with the U.S. criminal justice system,” wrote Virginia Sloan in the Huffington Post.
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