The execution of Humberto Leal Garcia

Humberto Leal Garcia was recently executed in Texas for the rape/murder of a 16 year old in 1994. I believe that Leal Garcia was about 23 at the time. Born in Mexico, he had been raised since infancy/toddlerhood in San Antonio. At the time of his arrest, he was not given consular access as required by the Vienna Convention, a treaty that the United States has signed. His answers to police were given in a non-custodial interview. Mexican authorities have claimed, that if he had been given consular access, his lawyers would have advised him to remain silent. Mexican officials also would have ensured that he received “better” counsel that his court appointed lawyers. The Obama administration petitioned the US Supreme Court to stop the execution in order to give Congress time to pass a bill sponsored by Sen. Leahy that would require state and local officials to abide by Vienna Convention. In a 5-4 decision, the court rejected the appeal. Texas carried out the execution. Immediately prior to execution, Leal Garcia took “full blame for everything”. His guilt was almost never in doubt.

The questions to be debated:

  1. Did the Sumpreme Court err in its decision?
  2. Did Texas err in its decision?
  3. Would consular access have made any difference? Should it have been given?

My opinions:

  1. No. The court relied on Medellín v. Texas (again) which stated that a treaty “is not binding domestic law unless Congress has enacted statutes implementing it or unless the treaty itself is “self-executing”; that decisions of the International Court of Justice are not binding domestic law; and that, absent an act of Congress or Constitutional authority, the President of the United States lacks the power to enforce international treaties or decisions of the International Court of Justice.” From wiki - [link.] Assuming that that is an accurate characterization of Medellin, then I would say that the Supreme Court appropriately followed precedent. It is not the purview of the court to guess what actions Congress might take, only those that it has.

  2. No. Texas followed the laws of Texas. A convicted rapist/murderer was executed under Texas law. Texas didn’t follow a law that it was not bound by. If the Leahy bill had been passed previously, Texas should have followed it.

  3. I’m torn on this one. Nothing that I have read has indicated at what point Leal Garcia notified authorities of his Mexican citizenship. He had lived almost his entire life in the United States. I’m not even certain if he knew that he was a Mexican citizen. Should the police ask everyone if they are an American citizen before interviewing them? Should some sort of profile be used? Leal Garcia certainly has a “Mexican sounding” name but then so does a very large percentage of south Texas. If Whitey McWhiterson is interviewed by police in Indiana, should they first determine his citizenship or is US citizenship the default position. Should local police in San Antonio follow different guidelines that those in Indianapolis?

Implicit in the Mexican government’s objection is that Leal Garcia would have received “better” representation if he had been given consular access. Since he was interviewed non-custodially, I don’t know if he was advised of his rights. I don’t know if he should have been. IANAL. Should consular access always be granted before an arrest is made? Again, I can’t tell when it was discovered that Leal Garcia was not an American. In my mind, it makes a difference. Or at least it would have had Leahy’s bill been a law.

Another problem that I have with the “better representation” argument is that Americans in this country are not entitled to the “best lawyers that money can buy” but only to “competent defense”. I’m not sure what the actual wording is but I’m fairly certain that this is an accurate representation. “We would have hired a better lawyer” is a pretty weak defense IMHO.


Article VI, Clause 2 of the US Constitution:

Seems pretty straight forward to me. US federal law trumps Texas state law and clearly so do treaties. Says it right there. I would certainly think a state needs to abide by treaties the US has entered in to. I am shocked at the Supreme Court over this.

Abiding by the treaty does not mean that Texas couldn’t prosecute this guy. Texas could also execute him. Texas should have informed the Mexican consulate of this though. We expect the same treatment for Americans abroad.

Based on what you’ve written here, the Supreme Court’s decision seems dubious. The treaty had been signed and the legislation that would have implemented it had been submitted as a bill. The court seems to have essentially said that while the law will soon make it illegal to execute Garcia, Texas could still do it if they hurried. Gaming the system like that makes a mockery of due process.

On the surface, I don’t think any error was made in Texas. The government does not have an obligation to ascertain your foreign citizenship or determine if you are eligible for any other special status. The accused and his attorney has to raise these issues.

Was the girl he raped & murdered given consular access? Was she advised of her rights? Did she have access to a ‘better’ lawyer?

He committed the crime; he paid the penalty.
Where do you see any miscarriage of justice?

In what way, specifically, do you believe the United States has violated the Vienna Convention?

Except that in the seven years since the Medellin decision was rendered, that legislation has never passed Congress. You seem to think that this time, it’s a done deal.


Do you realize that you are basically arguing for the state to be as unprincipled as a criminal? The government is supposed to show more consideration than a criminal.

The treaty was ratified by Congress in 1969. The Medellin decision was made in 2008. It’s not as if Congress didn’t know that this was an issue. It is also far from a decided issue that Congress will even pass the Leahy bill.

Congress had more than two years to pass such legislation but failed to do so. Doesn’t trying to get a stay of execution so legislation has more time to get passed seem like gaming the system? The court ruled on the law as it stood and not on how it might stand in the future. Blame Congress for taking so long to legislate.

That same point was made in the Medellin case. From Judge Cochran’s concurrence in the Texas decision:

Medellin v. State, J. Cochran, concurring

The notification issue is a tricky one. As we saw in the discussions of the Arizona law regarding illegal immigrants, many people find it very objectionable to have police ascertain the citizenship status of every person they arrest. And yet the treaty in question calls for the person to be advised of the right of consular access at the time of arrest, not later. Presumably every arrestee would have to be advised on a precautionary basis, “if you are a citizen of another country, you have the right to have access to your consulate.”

So Mexico forces millions of illegals upon us and pouts whenever we try to make event he slightest move against them so they should even if it was not exactly the right bureaucratic procedure shut up about this. :dubious: But apparently Leal did not ask for consular notification for all the years he rotted in prison.

“Forces”? What, do they have incriminating photographs of Obama with a llama?

They are not “forcing” illegal immigrants on us, nor do we actually want to stop them. We are the ones exploiting them. The last thing we want is them to either not come, or to become legal citizens we have to treat decently; we want our cheap easily abusable labor.

The US failed to inform Leal of his Vienna Convention (on Consular Relations) rights to consular access, which apparently the convention requires under Article 36 (i.e., Foreign nationals who are arrested or detained be given notice “without delay” of their right to have their embassy or consulate notified of that arrest). Unless the US did that or the Convention has changed, that’s a violation/breach because Leal was never informed of that right.

However, I don’t think the US violated any domestic laws (only international) in their failure to inform and Leal was lawfully executed under US and Texas law.

I’d find the non-existence of a law acceptable grounds if it had never been introduced. But in this case, a bill had apparently been introduced at the time of Garcia’s execution. The court should have waited until the outcome of the bill was settled, not decided to execute now and then find out afterwards whether or not the law was passed that made the execution illegal.

Well then, I hope you don’t mind us building a fence or the Arizona law or similar measures.

Of course I mind. It’s a stupid waste of money motivated by racial bigotry and the desire to justify brutally exploiting people by demonizing them.

Qin Shi Huangdi, drop this whiny hijack, immediately. The actions of Mexico are not being debated in this thread.

[ /Moderating ]

Thank you.

I’m not a legal scholar. However, is it my understanding that the Supreme Court rules on matters of the law as they currently exist and not as they might exist at some point in the future. Problems similar to the Garcia case have cropped up numerous times in the last few decades. If Congress has failed to legislate for so many years why would the court expect them to legislate now?