As Mexican National Awaits Execution, White House Pleads For Delay
Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. is expected to be executed this afternoon in Huntsville, Tx. But his execution has become less about the fact that he was convicted of the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl and more about a rare diplomatic showdown between the state, the Obama administration and even the United Nations.
The issue is that Leal is a Mexican citizen and Texas law enforcement officials failed to tell Leal that the Vienna Convention afforded him the right to notify Mexican consular authorities about his arrest and to seek their help with legal representation.
The Obama administration is concerned that if the U.S. does not abide by its Vienna Convention duties then foreign governments may feel emboldened to ignore the consular rights of U.S. nationals abroad.
The Obama administration has asked the Supreme Court to step in and delay the execution until the end of the year and the U.N. high commissioner for human rights asked Texas Gov. Rick Perry to stay Garcia's execution. But the state and the governor have vowed to move forward.
As NPR's Wade Goodwyn reported on Morning Edition, it looks like unless the Supreme Court steps in, Garcia will be executed. Wade adds that Perry's aides have made it clear they believe the International Court of Justice has no authority in the state.
ABC News has a bit of background on what that court said:
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 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.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a bill that would do just that, but it has no chance of passing before this afternoon's scheduled execution.
Nicole Allan at The Atlantic asks the big question: If Garcia is executed, does it matter? Allan reports that in 2004 another Mexican citizen was facing the same predicament as Garcia. President George W. Bush asked Texas to reevaluate Jose Medellin's case. The state refused and Medellin was executed later that year.
So does it matter? Here's Allan:
The Garcia case has also revealed an uncomfortable truth about international law — while often influential, its scope is fundamentally limited, especially in the U.S. When the ICJ directly instructed Texas to change its policies, the state refused, and the Supreme Court sided with Texas over its international cousin. In principle, even-handed arbitration of international disputes sounds reasonable. But, in practice, geopolitics — and, sometimes, domestic politics — win the day. After all, the U.S. has so far been able to brush aside the Vienna Convention without sacrificing its own interests.
Garcia's execution may spark enough outrage to spur other countries to stand up to the world's superpower — or it may, like Medellin's, be archived as an interesting legal dispute with little real-world consequence.