Thursday, June 16, 2011

Scheduled Texas Execution Ignites International Controversy

Texas has executed more convicted killers than any other state. This year the state has executed four men and a series of executions are scheduled for the next 30 days. Executions, at least in Texas, have become routine.

However, the July 7 execution of Humberto Leal Jr. is anything but routine. Leal is a Mexican national, who claims that the Untied States violated the Geneva Convention when it failed to alert him of his right to contact the Mexican Consulate for assistance in his defense.

Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, provides if an individual who is not a national of the United States is detained or arrested by an officer or employee of the Federal Government or a State or local government, the arresting or detaining officer or employee, or other appropriate officer or employee of the Federal Government or a State or local government, shall notify that individual without delay that the individual may request that the consulate of the foreign state of which the individual is a national be notified of the detention or arrest.

Observing the treaty is not “a favor to foreigners” but a “plainly compelling” national interest in protecting Americans abroad, John B. Bellinger III told the New York Times. Bellinger was the top State Department lawyer under President George W. Bush and who joined other former diplomats in a plea to Texas Governor Rick Perry. Governor Perry is awaiting a recommendation from the State Board of Pardons.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the consular provision of the Vienna Treaty needs to addressed by congressional action. The congress has not acted. Senator Patarick Leahy has proposed legislation that relates specifically to capital cases.

The Council of Europe, a human rights organization, has called on the Untied States to pass legislation supporting the Vienna treaty, a request that could backfire in Washington, partly because “a push from Europe that focuses on the death penalty will alienate some lawmakers,” Peggy McGuinness, associate director of the Center for International and Comparative Law at St. John’s Law School in New York, wrote in her blog, reported the Times.

With Governor Perry contemplating a run for president, it is unlikely that he will grant a stay that can be perceived as bowing to international pressure. Don't forget that candidate Bill Clinton presided over the 1992 Arkansas execution of a man who's mental state was such, that he saved a piece of pie from his final meal for after the execution.

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