Yesterday, the United States Supreme Court refused to stay the execution of a Mexican citizen, Humberto Leal Garcia, who was convicted of the 1994 rape and murder in Texas, despite requests from his defense attorneys and the United States and Mexican governments to postpone the execution. A few hours later, Humberto Leal Garcia was executed in Huntsville, Texas, by means of lethal injection. His death may potentially jeopardize diplomatic relations between the United States and other countries because Texas law enforcement authorities had violated the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations by failing to notify him of his right to consular assistance before obtaining incriminating statements in connection with a murder investigation.
Under the Vienna Convention signed by the United States, foreigners arrested in this county are entitled to certain procedures, including the opportunity to speak with their country’s consulate representatives before answering any questions by the police. However, nobody told Mr. Leal Garcia that he could seek legal assistance from his own country. As a result, the police were able to obtain incriminating statements from him that the prosecution later used to convict him of the kidnapping and murder of a 16-year-old girl. Had Leal Garcia been provided with the opportunity to speak with a Mexican consular officieal, it could have helped him avoid the death penalty.
Despite the fact that Leal Garcia’s incriminating statements were obtained in violation of the United States’ international treaty obligation, which threatens the nation’s foreign policy interests, the Supreme Court refused to stay his execution. The Court reasoned that since Congress has failed to enact any statute that would permit court reviews for condemned foreign nationals who are not offered the help of their consulates, the signing of the treaty by the United States Government does not constitute directly enforceable federal law. Therefore, courts lack the authority to enforce those obligations as a matter of domestic law. Further, the Court refused to wait for Congressional action on pending legislation.
The long term political and legal effects of this execution can be very serious. They can potentially undermine the safety of all Americans who travel abroad because other countries may now start denying Americans the benefit of consular assistance in the event of their arrest or detention.
The San Diego Law Office of Domenic J. Lombardo is dedicated to defending criminal charges in state, federal, and county courts throughout San Diego. For a free consultation, contact us at (619) 232-5122, or: [email protected]
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