Friday, July 8, 2011

Texas executes Mexican after court stay rejected

"HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) -- A Mexican national was executed Thursday for the rape-slaying of a San Antonio teenager after the U.S. Supreme Court turned down a White House-supported appeal to spare him in a death penalty case where Texas justice triumphed over international treaty concerns.

Humberto Leal, 38, received lethal injection for the 1994 murder of Adria Sauceda. She was fatally bludgeoned with a piece of asphalt.

Leal was pronounced dead at 6:21 p.m.

Leal moved with his family from Monterrey, Mexico, to the U.S. as a toddler. Police never told Leal following his arrest that he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under an international treaty and his case had prompted appeals on what it could mean for other foreigners arrested in the U.S. and for Americans detained in other countries. His appeals lawyers said such assistance would have helped his defense.

The argument was not new. Texas, the nation's most active death penalty state, has executed other condemned foreign nationals who raised similar challenges, most recently in 2008.

Leal's appeals, however, focused on legislation introduced last month in the U.S. Senate by Vermont Democrat Patrick Leahy. Leahy's measure would bring the U.S. into compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations provision regarding the arrests of foreign nationals and ensure court reviews for condemned foreigners to determine if the lack of consular help made a significant difference in the outcome of their cases.

President Barack Obama's administration took the unusual step of intervening in a state murder case when Solicitor General Donald Verrilli Jr. last week joined Leal's appeal in asking the high court halt the execution and give Congress at least six months to consider Leahy's bill.

"The legislation would give Mr. Leal an opportunity to demonstrate that with consular assistance, he likely would not have been convicted, let alone sentenced to death," Sandra Babcock, a Northwestern University law professor and one of Leal's lawyers, said"

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