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Texas has executed a Mexican-born man on July 7, ignoring appeals made by the U.S. Supreme Court, President Obama, and Mexico to spare the convicted murderer’s life in order to protect U.S. interests abroad.
Humberto Leal Garcia, 38 was convicted of the rape and murder of a 16-year-old San Antonio girl in 1994. He was executed by lethal injection at a Texas death chamber in Huntsville.
Leal suffered from brain damage and was sexually abused by a priest as a child. On May 21, 1994, Leal kidnapped, raped, and murdered Adria Sauceda. Sauceda was at a party where she became intoxicated and a group of men gang-raped her. According to the case, Leal offered her a ride home and the two struggled when Sauceda tried to get out of the car.
Both forensic evidence and witness statements tied Leal to the crime. In statements to police, he acknowledged fighting with Sauceda and pushing her to the ground, where he said she hit her head.
At the time of his arrest, Leal was not informed that, as a Mexican citizen, he was entitled to assistance from a Mexican counsel. However, Leal had not revealed his Mexican citizenship, and the issue of consular access was not raised during the trial. The failure to inform Leal of his rights created legal controversy.
Shortly before Leal’s trip to the death chamber, the Supreme Court rejected, by 5-4, an appeal from the White House to stop the execution on the grounds that it was in breach of an international convention governing the treatment of foreigners who are arrested and would therefore cause “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad.
“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,” the court brief said.
But, Stephen Hoffman, an assistant attorney general for Texas, said in a brief to the Supreme Court: “Leal’s argument is nothing but a transparent attempt to evade his impending punishment.”
A number of retired military officers, diplomats and prominent Republicans backed the appeal. Maintaining the integrity of an international treaty protecting the legal rights of Americans abroad was more important than delivering swift justice to one criminal, no matter how depraved.
Donald J. Guter, a retired rear admiral in the Navy’s Judge Advocate General Corps, called the case terrible and said he had no sympathy for Garcia.
“I’m looking to protect American citizens and American service members who travel overseas, and making sure they have the protection of the treaty,” Guter said.
Texas Governor Rick Perry declined to intervene in the Leal case and the Texas Board of Paroles and Pardons voted on Tuesday, July 5 to allow the execution to proceed.
“Texas is not bound by a foreign court’s ruling,” said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Perry. “If you commit the most heinous of crimes in Texas, you can expect to face the ultimate penalty under our laws.”
Currently, the U.S. government is working to limit the diplomatic fallout that has taken place since the execution in hopes that American interests abroad will not have to be subject to any harm.