The Brief: Top Texas News for July 6, 2011

The Big Conversation:

Despite objections from the Obama administration, Texas appears ready to execute the man at the center of a death penalty case that has raised international furor.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected a request to stay the execution of Humberto Leal Jr., a Mexican national who was convicted of raping and murdering a 16-year-old San Antonio girl in 1994.

Lawyers for Leal, set to die Thursday, argue that he was never informed of his right — granted under the U.N.'s Vienna Convention on Consular Relations — to seek legal help from the Mexican consulate.

The Texas board denied the reprieve 4-1, the state's second rejection of the U.N. provision in recent years, the Houston Chronicle notes. Last week, the Obama administration took the unusual step of asking the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the execution. The court has yet to rule.

Gov. Rick Perry could could still grant Leal a 30-day stay but has yet to make a decision. “That said, Perry spokeswoman Katherine Cesinger told the San Antonio Express-News, "if you commit the most heinous of crimes in Texas, you can expect to face the ultimate penalty under our laws, as in this case, where Leal was convicted of raping and bludgeoning a 16-year-old girl to death.”

Sandra Babcock, Leal's attorney, said in a statement that the board's ruling “ignores the views of the U.S. government and solicitor general, former diplomats, military leaders, judges and prosecutors, and organizations representing Americans abroad who believe Mr. Leal's execution would threaten the safety of Americans overseas and undermine the international interests of the United States."

In June, the Tribune's Brandi Grissom reported on another wrinkle in the case: Leal's lawyers' fight to air reports of his sexual abuse by a priest.

Culled:

  • Another former Newt Gingrich campaign staffer has boarded the Perry bandwagon. The Des Moines Register reported Tuesday that Craig Schoenfeld, who directed Gingrich's Iowa caucus team before jumping ship last month with several other senior staff members, has signed on to Americans for Rick Perry, a group unaffiliated with the governor but raising money for him while he mulls a run.
  • A New Hampshire poll released Tuesday showed Gov. Rick Perry pulling 4 percent of the vote among GOP primary voters in the state, ahead of former Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty — an impressive number for a candidate who has yet to declare, in a primary state that often supports more moderate Republicans.  
  • The Trib's Brandi Grissom and Jay Root have a look today at the battle that played out during the legislative session between Democratic megadonor Steve Mostyn and Gov. Rick Perry. And though the session's over, the fighting's not likely to stop: "We have plenty of information that we’ll be happy to share with anybody," Mostyn said of Perry. "I will remain politically active."

"I could raise 5 million, he'll spend 10; I'll raise 10, he'll spend 20. You can never get ahead of the guy." — State Sen. Dan Patrick, R-Houston, to the Houston Chronicle on his hesitancy toward running for a U.S. Senate seat against Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst

Must-Read:

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