Constitutional Law

Texas Executes Mexican National Despite White House Concerns About Foreign Treaty Violations


Humberto Leal Garcia was executed today in Texas for the 1994 murder and sexual assault of a 16-year-old girl, despite White House concerns about violations of international law and damage to American interests.

Similar concerns were also cited in a U.S. Supreme Court petition for a stay last week, which contended that Leal Garcia, who is a Mexican national, was denied his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations to consult with the Mexican consulate after he was arrested, according to reports the Guardian and Reuters.

However, the high court rejected the petition, by a 5-4 vote, shortly before Leal Garcia was put to death by lethal injection at a state prison in Huntsville today. President Barack Obama and others had argued that failing to recognize the rights of foreign citizens in the United States jeopardizes Americans abroad.

In an unsigned opinion, the majority upheld a 2008 supreme court decision. It found Congress must act to require Texas to comply with a 2004 ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, which held that inmates of American prisons were denied rights under the Vienna Convention, recounts Adam Liptak in a New York Times article about the supreme court’s denial of the petition.

Congress had had plenty of time to act since then, but hadn’t done so, the majority noted.

But Justice Stephen Breyer, joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor, wrote in dissent that the executive branch’s request for a stay sought a modest remedy, given the irreparable harm it asserted the execution would cause. Breyer also said that the court should defer to the executive branch assessment of the situation, since “the court has long recognized the president’s special constitutionally based authority in matters of foreign relations.”

A Blog of Legal Times article provides additional details about the case.

A June 30 decision, provided by Leagle, of the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Cilrcuit Court of Appeals also denied a stay of execution for Leal Garcia.

Additional and related coverage:

ABA Journal (June 2008): “Advice of Consul”

ABAJournal.com (June 2008): “Mexico Asks World Court to Halt Five U.S. Executions”

ABAJournal.com: “High Court Asked to Stay Execution of Mexican National”

All Headline News: “Mexico appeals to Supreme Court to spare citizen from death penalty”

Updated on July 8 to link to Blog of Legal Times article.

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