Don’t Mess WithTexas (Common Sense Has Left Us)
The U.S. Supreme Court denied a Mexican man’s request for an execution stay inTexas, calling his argument meritless.
Humberto Leal, 38, a Mexican national and convicted murder, has since been moved to a holding cell a few steps away from the Texas death chamber, an indicator that he is hours away from the lethal injection cocktail.
He is set to die for the 1994 brutal rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, of San Antonio.
President Obama, the State Department and Mexican authorities have all asked Texas for a last-minute reprieve, citing the U.N.-enforced 1963 Vienna Treaty, which requires foreign nationals who are arrested in foreign countries the right to access their consulates.
The White House asked for a stay in the case that has pitted Texas justice against international treaty rights.
In a 5-4 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said, “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.”
An hour before the 6 p.m. scheduled execution, Texas Gov. Rick Perry has yet to make a decision regarding whether to stay the execution, a spokeswoman said.
Leal, who moved with his family from Mexico to the U.S. as a toddler, contends police never told him he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under the treaty — and that such assistance would have helped his defense.
Sauceda, his victim, was found naked by authorities, according to court documents.
“There was a 30- to 40-pound asphalt rock roughly twice the size of the victim’s skull lying partially on the victim’s left arm,” court documents read. “Blood was underneath this rock. A smaller rock with blood on it was located near the victim’s right thigh.”
A “bloody and broken” stick roughly 15 inches long with a screw at the end of it was also protruding from the girl’s vagina, according to the documents.
Prosecutors said Sauceda was drunk and high on cocaine the night she was killed, and that Leal offered to take her home. Witnesses said Leal drove off with her around 5 a.m. Some partygoers found her brutalized nude body later that morning and called police.
A witness testified that Leal’s brother appeared at the party, agitated that Leal had arrived home bloody and saying he had killed a girl.
In his first statement to police, Leal said Sauceda bolted from his car and ran off. After he was told his brother had given detectives a statement, he changed his story, saying Sauceda attacked him and fell to the ground after he fought back. He said when he couldn’t wake her and saw bubbles in her nose, he got scared and went home.
Leal’s supporters say he was never given the option to seek legal assistance from the Mexican government. Although evidence against Leal was strong, supporters say he incriminated himself and had other legal difficulties.
“If Texas were to proceed with the scheduled execution of Mr. Leal … there could be no dispute that that execution would be unlawful,” Sandra Babcock, a Northwestern University law professor who is one of Leal’s attorneys, said last week in her appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Last Friday, the Obama administration asked the U.S. Supreme Court to stop Texas from executing Leal, asking the court to delay the execution for up to six months to give Congress time to consider legislation that would enforce the U.N. treaty.
Congress had three years to pass the bill but did not. Hence, it is impossible to pass a bill that would spare Leal unless a stay is ordered. A 30-day stay granted by Perry is another potential way for Leal to avoid execution on Thursday.
Attorney General Eric Holder and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have said if Texas disregards the treaty, it may have consequences for American citizens arrested abroad.
But the state of Texas appears to bristle at the idea of a foreign body affecting judgments in the state, even though President George W. Bush endorsed the U.N. ruling.
“Texas is not bound by a foreign court’s ruling,” Katherine Cesinger, press secretary for Gov. Perry’s office, said in a statement. “The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that the treaty was not binding on the states and that the president does not have the authority to order states to review cases of the then 51 foreign nationals on death row in the U.S.”
For 16 years, Leal has exercised his right to file appeals and motions so extensively, one judge in federal district court called his case “one of the most procedurally convoluted and complex habeas corpus proceedings” he ever reviewed.
As it stands, the death warrant could be served any time after 6 p.m. Thursday. Leal will be allowed to address the media, meet family and friends and eat his last meal: fried chicken, pico de Gallo and guisada tacos.
Meanwhile, in San Antonio, Adria’s father, Rene Sauceda, reportedly begins each morning by reading a South San Antonio High School newspaper clipping from May 25, 1995 — just after the first anniversary of his daughter’s death.
“I look at that every day,” Sauceda, 64, told the San Antonio Express-News. “Her friends paid to have that put in the newspaper. She had so many friends.”
Sauceda’s mother, Rachel Terry, told San Antonio television station KSAT her family already had suffered too long.
“A technicality doesn’t give anyone a right to come to this country and rape, torture and murder anyone,” she said.