Gov. Rick Perry rebuffed criticism today from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
and others for Texas' execution of a Mexican man whose lawyers said he was
not informed he could have sought legal help from the Mexican government
after he was arrested for the murder of a San Antonio teenager.
“If you commit the most heinous of crimes in Texas, you can expect to face the
ultimate penalty under our laws,” Perry's spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger said
a day after convicted killer Humberto Leal was put to death in Huntsville.
The Texas governor has the authority in execution cases to issue a one-time 30-
day reprieve, an authority Perry and other governors in the nation's most active
capital punishment state rarely have invoked.
“After reviewing the totality of the issues that led to Leal's conviction, as well as
the numerous court rulings surrounding the case, including the most recent
Supreme Court ruling on Thursday, Gov. Perry agreed that Leal was guilty of
raping and bludgeoning a 16-year-old girl to death,” Cesinger said.
Adria Sauceda was killed in 1994 in a gruesome attack in which her head was
bashed with a 30- to 40-pound piece of asphalt and she was raped, strangled,
bit and then left nude on a dirt road with a piece of wood stuck in her.
From the Texas death chamber Thursday evening, Leal, 38, took responsibility
for the slaying, asked for forgiveness and wrapped up his comments by twice
shouting: “Viva Mexico!”
He was born in Monterrey, Mexico, and moved with his family to the U.S. when
he was about 1 1/2 years old.
Mexico's government, President Barack Obama's administration and the State
Department were among those asking the Supreme Court to stop the execution
of the former mechanic to allow Congress time to consider legislation that
would require court reviews for condemned foreign nationals who weren't
offered the help of their consulates.
The high court rejected the request 5-4.
“The secretary herself is quite disappointed in the outcome in this case,”
Clinton's spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland, said Friday. “You know that the U.S.
government sought a stay of Leal's execution in order to give the Congress time
to act on the Consular Notification Compliance Act, which would have provided
Leal the judicial review required by international law.
“Frankly if we don't protect the rights of non-Americans in the United States, we
seriously risk reciprocal lack of access to our own citizens overseas,” Nuland
said. “So this is why the secretary is concerned. … We've got to treat non-
Americans properly here if we expect to be able to help our citizens overseas.”
In Geneva, the U.N.’s top human rights official said Leal's execution amounted
to a breach of international law by the U.S.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the punishment
“raises particular legal concerns,” including whether Leal had access to consular
services and a fair trial.
Pillay also cited a 2004 International Court of Justice ruling saying the U.S. must
review and reconsider the cases of 51 Mexican nationals sentenced to death,
including Leal's. In 2005, President George W. Bush agreed with the ruling but
the U.S. Supreme Court later overruled Bush.
“Texas is not bound by a foreign court's ruling,” Cesinger said. “The U.S.
Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the treaty was not binding on the states and
that the president does not have the authority to order states to review cases of
the then 51 foreign nationals on death row in the U.S.“
In its ruling Thursday about an hour before Leal's execution, the Supreme
Court's majority opinion pointed to the IJC decision, saying it's been seven years
since then and three years since the previous Texas death penalty case that
raised similar consular legal access issues.
If a statute implementing the provisions of the international court ruling “had
genuinely been a priority for the political branches, it would have been enacted
by now,” the majority ruling said.
Had the White House and dissenting justices been worried about “the grave
international consequences that will follow from Leal's execution … 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,” the ruling continued.
Leal's appeals lawyers had pinned their hopes on legislation introduced in the
Senate last month that applied to the Vienna Convention provisions and said
Leal should have a reprieve so the measure could make its way through the
Similar bills have failed twice in recent congressional sessions.
President Barack Obama is attempting to block the execution in Texas on
Thursday of a Mexican man because it would breach an international
convention and do "irreparable harm" to US interests.
The White House has asked the US supreme court to put the execution of
Humberto Leal Garcia on hold while Congress passes a law that would prevent
the convicted rapist and murderer from being put to death along with dozens of
other foreign nationals who were denied proper access to diplomatic
representation before trials for capital crimes.
The administration moved after the governor of Texas, Rick Perry, brushed aside
appeals from diplomats, top judges, senior military officers, the United Nations
and former president George W Bush to stay Leal's execution because it could
jeopardise American citizens arrested abroad as well as US diplomatic interests.
Leal, 38, was convicted in 1994 of the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl in
San Antonio. Few question that he was responsible for the killing but the Texas
authorities failed to tell Leal, who was born in Mexico and has lived in the US
since the age of two, that under the Vienna convention he was entitled to
contact the Mexican consulate when he was arrested.
Leal's lawyers argue that the lack of consular access played a role in the death
penalty being applied because the Mexican national incriminated himself in
statements made during "non-custodial interviews" with the police on the day
of the murder. Had Leal had access to the Mexican consulate it would have been
likely to have arranged a lawyer who would have advised the accused man to
limit his statements to the police. As it was, the Mexican authorities were never
informed of his arrest.
In a 30-page brief to the supreme court, the administration said that the
carrying out of the execution "would place the United States in irreparable
breach of its international law obligation" under the convention.
The White House said it was in the US's interests to meet its treaty obligations.
"These interests include protecting Americans abroad, fostering co-operation
with foreign nations, and demonstrating respect for the international rule of
law," it said.
Carrying out Leal's execution would cause "irreparable harm" to US interests
abroad, the administration added.
"That breach would have serious repercussions for United States foreign
relations, law-enforcement and other co-operation with Mexico, and the ability
of American citizens travelling abroad to have the benefits of consular
assistance in the event of detention," it said.
The legal situation has been complicated by earlier court rulings.
In 2004, the international court of justice (ICJ) ruled that the US authorities had
failed to meet its legal obligations to 51 Mexicans awaiting execution in
American prisons when they were not informed of their right to contact their