Obama and U.N. seek delay in execution of Mexican national
Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr. says the execution would put the U.S. in breach of an international-law obligation
Humberto Leal Garcia was sentenced to death for the 1994 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl
Leal, a Mexican national, has lived in the United States since he was 2 years old
He was not granted access to the Mexican consul prior to making incriminating statements
His execution is scheduled for Thursday
The Obama administration appealed Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court to delay next week's scheduled execution in Texas of a Mexican national convicted of kidnapping, raping and murdering a 16-year-old girl.
The execution of Humberto Leal Garcia, who was sentenced to death for the 1994 crimes, "would place the United States in irreparable breach of its international-law obligation to afford (Leal) review and reconsideration of his claim that his conviction and sentence were prejudiced by Texas authorities' failure to provide consular notification and assistance under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations," wrote Solicitor General Donald B. Verrilli Jr., in a friend-of-the-court brief.
In a separate document, a letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights asked that he commute the sentence to life in prison, according to Rupert Colville, a spokesman for Navi Pillay.
The 2 requests were based on the failure of Texas authorities to grant the 38-year-old Leal -- who has lived in the United States since he was 2 years old -- access to a Mexican consular official at the time of his arrest.
"The lack of consular assistance and advice raises concerns about whether or not Mr. Leal Garcia's right to a fair trial was fully upheld," Colville said.
The case "raises questions" regarding compliance with a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling in what is known as the Avena case that the United States failed to fulfill its obligations to 51 Mexicans on death row in U.S. jails when it did not inform them of their right to contact their consular representatives "without delay" after their arrests, he said.
"If the scheduled execution of Mr. Leal Garcia goes ahead, the United States government will have implemented a death penalty after a trial that did not comply with due process rights," said Christof Heyns, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions. "This will be tantamount to an arbitrary deprivation of life."
In its 30-page brief, the Obama administration said that complying with its obligations to notify consuls in such cases would serve U.S. interests as well as those of the condemned man. "These interests include protecting Americans abroad, fostering cooperation with foreign nations, and demonstrating respect for the international rule of law," it said.
Evidence introduced at his trial included 2 statements he made to the police on the day of the murder "during noncustodial interviews" that incriminated him.
His lawyers have said that the failure of Texas to notify and give him access to the Mexican consul "required suppression of the incriminating statements he made to the police," the filing said.
He is scheduled to be put to death Thursday.
But the Texas trial court found that, because he was not in custody at the time he gave the statements, Vienna Convention obligations did not apply.
The International Court of Justice said the remedy to the 2004 Avena case "consists in the obligations of the United States of America to provide, by means of its own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of (affected) Mexican nationals."
In 2005, then-President George W. Bush said the United States would discharge its obligations under Avena by having state courts address them.
That was called into question by a 2008 case that found that "neither Avena nor the president's memorandum constitutes directly enforceable federal law that pre-empts state limitations on the filing of subsequent habeas petitions."
But it said that Congress could pass a law addressing the obligations imposed by the Avena decision.
That has happened. The administration noted in its filing Friday that the recently introduced Senate bill -- the Consular Notification Compliance Act -- would put the United States into compliance with its international obligations under Avena. It added that, since passage of that legislation by the House may take until early next year, Leal's death sentence should be delayed until then.
That argument did not persuade the district court, which noted that "the filing of proposed legislation which might one day afford petitioner a remedy in the state or federal courts does not, standing alone, justify a stay of execution."
The court of appeals has backed up the lower court, concluding that Leal does not have "a due process right to remain alive until the proposed Avena legislation becomes law."
But the administration said that going ahead with Leal's execution would cause "irreparable harm" to U.S. foreign policy interests by putting the United States "in irremediable breach" of its international-law obligation.
"That breach would have serious repercussions for United States foreign relations, law-enforcement and other cooperation with Mexico, and the ability of American citizens traveling abroad to have the benefits of consular assistance in the event of detention."
Obama calls for halt to Texas execution----Mexican was convicted of raping, killing San Antonio girl
The Obama administration took the unusual step Friday of asking the Supreme Court to stop Texas from executing a Mexican citizen convicted of raping and killing a 16-year-old girl.
The administration said the court should delay the planned July 7 execution of Humberto Leal for up to six months to give Congress time to consider legislation that would directly affect Leal's case.
The 38-year-old native of Monterrey wasn't told he could contact the Mexican Consulate after his arrest in the murder of Adria Sauceda. His lawyers say police violated an international treaty by not telling Leal he could have consular assistance.
Legislation pending in the Senate would allow federal courts to review cases of condemned foreign nationals to determine if the lack of consular help made a significant difference in the outcome of their cases. Last week, a federal judge refused to delay the execution.
The Supreme Court has previously ruled that states can't be forced to comply with the provisions of treaties without some intervening federal legislation.
The federal government rarely intervenes in state death penalty cases. The thrust of the administration's legal argument deals with the government's international treaty obligations, not Leal's guilt or innocence, or even whether he should ultimately be executed.
"This case implicates United States foreign-policy interests of the highest order," including protecting U.S. citizens abroad and promoting good relations with other countries, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. said. Verrilli, the administration's new chief Supreme Court lawyer, has long represented death row inmates free of charge in his private practice.
State Department legal adviser Harold Koh separately has written Gov. Rick Perry and other Texas officials asking them to step in and put off the execution.
The administration's legal filing was provided by Leal's lawyers. The Justice Department did not immediately comment Friday.
The Mexican government and other countries have joined the legal fight to grant Leal a reprieve.
Police discovered Sauceda's nude body on a dirt road in San Antonio in May 1994. Evidence showed she had been raped, bitten and strangled. A large stick that had a screw protruding from it was left in her body.
Among other evidence, the bite mark was matched to Leal. Her bloody blouse was found at Leal's home. She and Leal had been attending a party not far from where she was found.
(source: Associated Press)
Obama Admin Appeals to Supreme Court on Mexican National Execution Case
An astute political observer pointed this story out to Hot Air's Ed Morrissey on Twitter, saying it wasn't getting enough attention, so Ed retweeted it and I happened to see the link. The story is, actually, fairly startling, as chronicled by SCOTUS Blog: the Obama administration has asked the Supreme Courtto stay an execution of a Mexican national (Humberto Leal Garcia) in Texas because he claims "Texas violated his rights under an international treaty, the Vienna Convention." The man had been "convicted of the kidnap, rape, and murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1995."
Apparently, there was a similar case under George Bush's administration. Lyle Denniston of SCOTUS Blog explains:
Speaking for the Justice and State Departments, Solicitor General Donald B.Verrilli, Jr., argued that Leal’s execution would cause the U.S. to violate treaty obligations with “serious repercussions” for foreign policy and would raise threats of retaliation to Americans who travel or work abroad.
Leal’s American attorneys, strongly supported by the Mexican government and several other foreign governments, are seeking to postpone his execution for the same reasons that Verrilli offered Friday: that there is not time, before next Thursday, for Congress to pass a new law that would give Leal and other foreigners convicted of crimes in the U.S. a right to challenge their conviction because they were denied their treaty rights under the Vienna Convention. That treaty supposedly guarantees a foreign national a right to consult with agents of his home country when arrested for crimes in another nation.
It is rare for the federal government to go to the Court to support delays of execution in state cases. The new legal efforts of Leal’s defense counsel and the Obama Administration are an attempt to gain a different outcome for him than similar efforts met three years ago. Then, the George W. Bush Administration and defense lawyers made the attempt to save another Mexican with the same treaty complaint, Jose Ernesto Medellin. After losing his challenge in the Supreme Court, Medellin was executed in August 2008 in Huntsville, Texas.
Medellin and Leal were among 51 Mexicans, convicted of crimes in the U.S. without having access to a home-country diplomat, who won a World Court decision in 2004 declaring that the U.S. had failed to live up to its obligations under the Vienna Convention — that is, the duty to give those individuals a chance to contest their convictions because of the breach of the treaty. Medellin’s case went to the Supreme Court after President Bush sought to directly order state officials to abide by the treaty.
Los Angeles Times
The law, even on Texas' death row
Humberto Leal Garcia Jr., like other Mexican nationals sentenced to death, were never told they were entitled to seek help from their consulate.
Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. is scheduled to be executed Thursday in Texas.
He is not a sympathetic figure — he was convicted of bludgeoning a 16-year-old girl to death with a piece of asphalt after raping her — and his gruesome crime is in many ways similar to those of dozens of other death-row inmates across the country. But here's what is different: He is a Mexican citizen, and when he was arrested in 1994, he was never told that under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, he was entitled to ask the Mexican consulate for help. By the time he found out, he was sitting in a cell on death row.
The International Court of Justice has called on the United States to review Leal's case, as well as the cases of other Mexican nationals who were never told of their rights under the treaty. Then-President George W. Bush essentially ordered Texas to comply as well. But Texas refused. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that the treaty was legal but that only an act of Congress could require such a review.
Leal's current appeal isn't about whether the death penalty ought to be abolished. It's not even about whether he committed the crime for which he was convicted. Rather, it is a test of the United States' willingness to afford foreign nationals accused of crimes in this country the same protections it demands for Americans when they are arrested and accused overseas.
The fact is that local authorities failed to comply with the treaty. Whether the Mexican government's assistance would have changed the outcome of Leal's case is unknown. Some suggest that the court-appointed attorneys weren't up to the task (one has since been suspended twice in connection with other cases). And Leal's current defense team, paid for by the Mexican government, says that DNA evidence used in the original case was botched. The lawyers are asking for a new test they say will prove Leal never raped the girl.
Leal's attorneys have asked the Supreme Court to intervene and issue a stay until Congress can consider a legislative fix. Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) introduced a bill late last month that would require judicial review of Leal's case and others like it. The proposal has the support of the Justice and State departments, and a congressional hearing is set for later this month. The bill is narrow and would apply only to capital punishment cases in which denial of consular notification hurt a defendant's case. Currently, 40 Mexican nationals who are on death row in Texas and California would be eligible. The appeal won't result in Leal's release from prison, only in a review of his case, which should have been granted years ago. Potentially, a judge could then order a new trial.
Both the court and Congress have an opportunity to right a wrong. They ought to seize it and ensure that the United States meets its international obligation. Doing so will protect American citizens abroad from being made to pay the price for others' mistakes.
(source: Editorial, Los Angeles Times)
SRE se suma a Obama para frenar ejecución de mexicano
Domingo 03 de julio de 2011
Silvia Otero El Universal
El gobierno de México, a través de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores (SRE), envió un escrito a la Corte Suprema de Estados Unidos, a fin de apoyar la moción que presentó el viernes el presidente Barack Obama para que se suspenda la ejecución del mexicano Héctor Leal García, programada para el 7 de julio, en Texas, informaron autoridades de la dependencia.
La petición de Barack Obama, de ser aprobada por la Corte, daría tiempo para que se discuta una legislación que obligaría a los tribunales estatales estadounidenses a acatar el fallo de la Corte Internacional de Justicia (CIJ) de La Haya —en el llamado caso Avena—, que hace más de siete años ordenó revisar 51 juicios de mexicanos condenados a la pena capital, ya que se documentaron deficiencias procesales.
Leal García fue sentenciado a la pena de muerte en 1998 como responsable del asesinato de Adriana Sauceda, de 16 años, perpetrado el 21 de mayo de 1994, en San Antonio, Texas.
Pero de acuerdo con la Corte Internacional de Justicia, en este caso se incumplieron leyes internacionales, pues al inculpado nunca se le notificó su derecho a recibir asistencia consular de México, lo que afectó el desarrollo del proceso legal.
El presidente Barack Obama, a través de la Oficina del Procurador General (Office of the Solicitor General), pidió a la Corte estadounidense suspender la ejecución, para que se debata la ley que haría efectivo el fallo de la CIJ.
SRE pide respeto a fallo de CIJ
Autoridades de la Secretaría de Relaciones Exteriores consultadas informaron que ante el paso dado por el gobierno estadounidense, “el gobierno de México presentó también un escrito de Amigo de la Corte (Amicus Curiae), apoyando la petición de que se suspenda la ejecución”.
En el documento de la Cancillería se argumenta que se debe respetar el fallo del tribunal internacional y que deben ser revisados los casos de los 51 connacionales sentenciados a pena de muerte —entre los que está Leal García—, pues se violaron sus derechos procesales.
Las autoridades consultadas afirmaron que “el gobierno mexicano valora este nuevo esfuerzo de la administración Obama por aplicar la sentencia de la Corte Internacional de Justicia en el caso Avena”, por lo que respaldaron con su escrito la petición del gobierno estadounidense.
“Esperamos que la Corte Suprema considere favorablemente los argumentos que se han presentado. Los gobiernos de México y de Estados Unidos han reiterado su compromiso con el respeto al derecho a la notificación consular”, confiaron las autoridades.
Respecto al caso de Humberto Leal, la semana pasada la titular de la SRE, Patricia Espinosa Cantellano, informó que “de acuerdo con la decisión de la Corte Internacional de Justicia, hemos estado también promoviendo y buscando sensibilizar a los miembros del Poder Legislativo en Estados Unidos, a fin de que impulsen la legislación que dé cumplimiento a la sentencia del tribunal de La Haya”.