Thursday, July 7, 2011

Today’s Video: Execution (Update)

Should the state of Texas go through with the planned execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia? The main issue is not over the death penalty, per se, but regarding the likelihood that his legal rights were not met. Federal officials determined that Texas authorities did not tell Leal Garcia of his right to immediate help from Mexican consular officials as they are required to under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

In recent weeks numerous figures including the governments of several Latin American countries have tried to intercede on behalf of Leal Garcia who is scheduled to die by lethal injection today. As was the case under the Bush administration with death row inmate Jose Medellin, the Obama administration has sought to suspend the execution of Leal Garcia.

For one diplomat, the possibility that the state will kill Leal Garcia could have serious consequences for U.S. citizens residing abroad:
“If we do not comply with our obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the U.N. Charter,” said John B. Bellinger III, who was the State Department’s top lawyer in the administration of President George W. Bush, “we put at risk Americans, including Texans, who travel and may be arrested overseas. It is surprising that Texas does not recognize the risks it may be creating for its own citizens.”
Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who has presidential aspirations and could run next year, is expected to go through with the execution. Regardless of the outcome, the Leal Garcia case will likely not quell the controversy over the application of the death penalty on foreign nationals:

Humberto Leal Garcia was executed via lethal injection on Thursday night. In a 5-4 vote that ran along ideological lines the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the appeal seeking a stay of execution for the Mexican national who was convicted in 1994 of raping and murdering a minor.

After the court's decision Texas Gov. Rick Perry allowed the application of the death penalty to go ahead. According to The Guardian the office of Texas Gov. Rick Perry's "argued that Leal Garcia was guilty of a heinous crime and deserved to die." While that may be the case, such reasoning detracts from "Obama administration lawyers and a broad cross-section of legal and foreign policy experts" who argued that Texan officials violated international law. (As we mentioned in the original post, he was denied their right to immediate legal help from the Mexican consulate).

A bill proposed last month by Sen. Patrick Leahy would provide federal courts the "jurisdiction to review cases of foreign nationals awaiting execution who were denied consular access".

Leal Garcia became the 26th person to be executed in the U.S. so far this year and the 18th in Texas. According to Human Rights Research (via AFP) there are"at least 132 foreign nationals
from 34 countries on US death rows."

Video Source - RT via YouTube
Online Sources - The Latin Americanist, Monsters & Critics, Al Jazeera English, New York Times, The Independent. (Huntington Post, New York Times, AFP, and The Guardian in the update).

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