Texas set to execute Mexican man despite pleas by U.S. and Mexico

Reuters News
Posted: Jul 07, 2011 6:08 PM
Texas set to execute Mexican man despite pleas by U.S. and Mexico

By Karen Brooks

AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas is set to execute on Thursday Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia for the rape and murder of a teenage girl, defying pleas by the Mexican government and President Barack Obama to delay it because his consular rights were violated.

Their hopes hinge on a last-minute decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which could still halt the execution, or Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry, who could delay it for 30 days.

Leal Garcia, 38, was convicted of raping a 16-year-old girl and then bludgeoning her to death with a 35-pound piece of asphalt in Texas in 1994.

He is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection after 6 p.m. local time on Thursday in Huntsville, Texas. He would be the seventh person executed in Texas and the 26th in the nation this year.

Perry, who is considering a run for president, has tended not to intervene in death penalty cases. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has already denied Leal Garcia's request for clemency.

Perry cannot commute a sentence without their recommendation; he can only grant a single 30-day stay. Also, Perry has allowed the past executions of foreign nationals with similar complaints, even in the face of international criticism.

"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," said Katherine Cesinger, a spokeswoman for Perry.

The case has drawn international attention, and the U.S. government has asked Perry to delay the execution on the grounds that Leal Garcia was not informed of his right to diplomatic counsel upon his arrest.

The Obama administration, the United Nations' top human rights official and Mexico's ambassador to the United States have all asked Texas to delay or block the execution on grounds that it violates the Vienna Convention.

The Vienna Convention guarantees residents of foreign countries the right to see representatives of their governments when they are arrested.

Although the U.S. government has signed the Vienna Convention, Congress has not passed a law to implement it.

Texas executes more criminals than any other state, and that has long caused friction with Mexico, which has no death penalty. In 2002, Texas executed Mexican citizen Javier Suarez Medina over the objections of then-President Vicente Fox.

In 2008, the case of Jose Medellin, a Mexican citizen convicted of a rape and murder in Texas, went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court on the issue of whether he was improperly denied consular assistance. He too was executed.

(Additional reporting by Jim Forsyth and Chris Baltimore; Editing by Greg McCune and Jerry Norton)