Friday, July 1, 2011

International Treaties and Texas

Humberto Leal Garcia
Texas has given us a lot of good things:  Albert Collins. James Lee BurkeFreddie King.  ZZ Top. Cornell Dupree.  Barbara Jordan.

Texas has also given us a justice system that makes it very clear that if you do the crime you most definitely are gonna do the time. Texas has no issue with the death penalty. Since the death penalty was allowed again, Texas has executed more people than anywhere else. Texas also has a reputation for not really seeming to care too much about that whole dotting the i's and crossing the t's thingie when it comes to getting convictions. 
Humberto Leal Garcia was convicted of raping and murdering a 16 year old girl. Her name was Adria Sauceda. She was kidnapped, raped, sodomized, and finally bludgeoned to death with a hunk of asphalt. 

Now, 17 yrs after her death, Leal is due to be executed for that crime. In the meantime he has discovered that he is a Mexican citizen and evidently didn't talk to his consular before his trial and conviction. This is required under international law. But during the Bush Administration, faced with a similar case, in Medellin v. Texas, the SC has ruled that absent a law from Congress the US government can't tell Texas what to do on this issue. 

Apparently the Feds are all hat, no cattle when it comes to Texas. Leal has also claimed that he was molested by a Catholic priest. The Catholic Church has added its voice to those calling for a stay of execution. You can read Leal's pov here. But Texas Governor Perry doesn't seem inclined to stay or commute the sentence. So absent a miracle, on July 7 Leal will be executed. The blog members hashed this out and as usual everyone had different opinions. Mine is pretty apparent so I'll skip that.

GrandCentral said this:
As a nation we have a moral obligation, to honor our commitments and lead by example. When an American citizen commits a crime abroad, it is not only presumed, but often demanded that the individual be given adequate legal representation and access to the US Embassy. The United States should respectfully extend the same courtesy to any individual who is convicted of a crime here. 

Euna Lee and Laura Ling, two American journalists, were convicted of illegally entering North Korea and sentenced to 12 years of hard labor. According to the North Korean government, they committed a crime. Their families along with the US State Department,  pleaded with the North Koreans and demanded their release. We cannot expect fair treatment of our citizens abroad, when we don't extend the same courtesy to citizens of other nations.

The Janitor pointed out:
When it comes to criminal laws of a state, the feds are pretty much powerless to intervene with the sovereignty of a state's internal judicial process.  You violate a law of the state, the state has jurisdiction over you.  The feds can't intervene UNLESS there is some constitutional violation, in which case the feds can overturn state convictions.  That's the general rule.

This case presents a rare exception where international law may apply.  Things get tricky once you start talking about conventions and treaties and whatnot.

"While a treaty may constitute an international commitment, it is not binding domestic law unless Congress has enacted statutes implementing it."
And in this case, Congress has not implemented any statutes implementing the Vienna Convention.  In fact, in 2005 the U.S. opted out of the convention's international court provision that would have allowed the international court to decide whether or not a Mexican like the guy in this case should be able to overturn his conviction by Texas state law. So is the US a party to this treaty?  Yes.  Is it binding on the States? No, thanks to the SCOTUS.

However, even if it isn't LEGALLY binding on the states, Texas should realize there is an internationally political aspect here that is bigger than the wishes of one state to execute one person.   If we execute this guy, as much as he may deserve to be executed, then we are basically giving other countries the green light to disregard our rights to consult with our embassies overseas whenever we get in trouble. 
Texas needs to be a team player here, but somehow I doubt they will.

The Fed stated:

This is where I DISAGREE with the SCOTUS... State law is NOT Supreme law in this country! HOWEVER, along with the constitution, treaties and international agreements are.  This isn't an issue of State's Rights vs Fed's Rights.  States HAVE NO RIGHTS on this issue.  They should stop trying to force their make believe rights. The US signed an agreement that said XYZ.  PERIOD.  As a result, Texas can't decide it doesn't want to follow that law. What good are treaties if states don't have to follow?

Is this impending execution problematic? If so, why?
Should Congress pass a law preventing state executions where there's a conflict with a treaty?
Is an execution that takes place 17 yrs after the crime any sort of deterrent?
Should the Administration seek other ways to pressure Texas absent a bill from Congress?
blog comments powered by Disqus