Texas execution of Mexican national results in international uproar
AUSTIN, Texas: On July 7, 2011 the State of Texas put Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. to death via lethal injection. His crime? The 1994 rape and murder of a 16-year old Texas girl. Garcia admitted his guilt shortly after being detained by Texas authorities in 1994, and maintained that guilt until his last waking minutes. The case, seemingly a straightforward who-done-it on surface, has garnered heated international attention. The controversy centers around not Garcia's guilt, but the status of foreign nationals' rights in the US under international treaty. The problem? Garcia was not informed of his right (under international treaty) to access the Mexican consulate upon arrest.
Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreign nationals detained or arrested are to be given access to their consulates, or at least notified of their right to do so. Garcia, "who was born in Mexico but has lived in the US since the age of two," was given no such notification or access to the Mexican Embassy. Under current law, Texas was under no legal obligation to do so because the Convention was not self-executing. Without corresponding legislation its provisions are not US law. After numerous appeals for clemency, Governor Rick Perry decided not to exercise his power to stay the execution. The US Supreme Court ruled on precedent in line with Texas that the Convention did not legally bind the state to action. President Obama, agreeing with Mexico and international opinion, appealed to the US Supreme Court on July 1st (just six days before Garcia's scheduled execution) to delay his execution until Congress could pass legislation making the international convention law - citing “foreign-policy interests of the highest order.”
Appealing the impending execution, Garcia's legal defense proclaimed "There can be little doubt that if the government of Mexico had been allowed access to Mr Garcia in a timely manner, he would not now be facing execution for a capital murder he did not commit."But Garcia did not contest his guilt. Allowed to give final words, Garcia proclaimed "I am sorry for everything that I have done. I've hurt a lot of people. For years, I have never thought I deserved any type of forgiveness. Lord Jesus Christ in my life, I know he has forgiven me. I have accepted his forgiveness. I have accepted everything. Let this be final and be done. I take the full blame for this. I am sorry and forgive me. I am truly sorry. Life goes on, and it surely does. I am sorry for the victim's family, for what I did, may they forgive me. I don't know if you believe me; life goes on." To the prosecutor Robert McClure, who ensured his conviction back in 1994, Garcia said "I ask for forgiveness from you. I ask for forgiveness. I truly am sorry. That is all" His final words were "Viva Mexico! I'm ready warden, let's get this show on the road."
In the end, Texas law reigned supreme. But as the 2012 elections approach, observers on both sides of the issue agree that the political fallout from the case has yet to be fully realized.
- ↑ United Nations, "Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Article 36", Accessed July 15, 2011
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 The Guardian, "Humberto Leal Garcia executed in Texas despite White House appeal", July 8, 2011
- ↑ Washington Post, "Obama administration calls for stay of execution of Mexican national in Texas" July 6, 2011