Skip to main content

Supreme Court Gives OK to Leal Execution

Despite the Obama administration's plea for a stay, the U.S. Supreme Court won't stand in the way of Texas' plans to execute Mexican citizen Humberto Leal Jr. tonight.

Lead image for this article

Despite the Obama administration's plea for a stay, the U.S. Supreme Court won't stand in the way of Texas' plans to execute Mexican citizen Humberto Leal Jr. tonight. 

According to Leal's legal team, he was never informed that, as a Mexican citizen, he had a right to assistance from the consulate. His original lawyers also failed to present evidence of his childhood sexual abuse at the hands of a priest, which could have persuaded jurors to spare him the death penalty.

Some legal experts also argue his execution would violate international treaties and endanger Americans in foreign countries. “If we do not comply with our obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the U.N. Charter,” John B. Bellinger III, a former Bush administration State Department lawyer told The New York Times, “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.”

The White House asked the high court to delay the death sentence of Leal, who was convicted in 1995 for the rape and murder of a 16 year-old girl, so Congress could consider a bill that would require a court review in cases where foreign nationals did not receive legal assistance from their consulates.

The Supreme Court, however, disagreed. Ruling 4-5, it declined to put off Leal's execution on the grounds that it could not take any action on the basis of unenacted legislation. It also found warnings of the potential consequences to international relations unpersuasive.

"Congress evidently did not find these consequences sufficiently grave to prompt its enactment of implementing legislation, and we will follow the law as written by Congress," the majority wrote in its opinion. "We have no authority to stay an execution in light of an ‘appeal of the President,’ presenting free-ranging assertions of foreign policy consequences,  when those assertions come unac­companied by a persuasive legal claim."

Gov. Rick Perry's office has said that the governor has no authority to grant a reprieve without a recommendation from the Board of Pardons and Paroles, which Leal does not have.

Support public-service journalism that gets the context right

Yes, I'll donate today