Posted on 07 July 2011
Humberto Leal has been convicted of rape and murder. He is sentenced to death. He is to be executed by lethal injection sometime after 6p.m.(CT) today. He was convicted in 1995 in the rape and murder of teenager Adrea Sauceda. A jury took 45 minutes to convict him.
This would seem to be just one more routine execution of which Texas leads the nation. It would also seem that if anyone deserved to be executed, Mr. Leal should certainly have that place in death penalty lore. There is one minor twist. Mr. Leal is a Mexican national. He was allegedly never told he had a right to contact the Mexican consulate after his arrest, which is a violation of the Vienna Convention. The Vienna Convention is an international treaty governing in part, the treatment of citizens of different nations outside of their home countries. The United States is a signatory to this treaty. Texas Governor Rick Perry however, contends that Texas is not bound by the treaty. In the 2008 case of Medellin v. Texas, the US Supreme Court noted that the Vienna treaty was not self-executing. It did not trump the law of a state unless and until Congress implemented it with a statute.
The Obama administration is fighting to save the life of Mr. Leal. The administration claims there a bigger picture at stake. The picture frame encompasses the rights of United States citizens who may find themselves in similar situations in Mexico and other foreign nations. The administration has asked the U.S. Supreme Court stop Texas from executing Leal and delay the execution for up to six months to give Congress time to consider legislation that would enforce the U.N. treaty.
The bottom line is that regardless of any effect this has on consular relations and rights of American nationals in other countries, given the Medellin precedent Governor Rick Perry will almost certainly refuse to stay the execution without SCOTUS intervention which, given the Medellin ruling, probably will not happen. Texas will get it’s pound of flesh to which it is morally entitled if you support the death penalty. Would consular access have resulted in Mr. Leal not making incriminating statements? We will never know. What I do know is this. Humberto Leal will probably be executed today and I won”t be visiting Mexico any time soon.
Posted on 18 June 2010
I am pro-death penalty. I think there are some people who simply deserve to die for their heinous acts. I also understand the argument that there is no true certainty in the criminal justice system and there should therefore be no death penalty. One innocent person executed is one too many. That’s for another blog.
That is not the issue that troubles me today with regards to the Ronnie Lee Gardner execution. I am comfortable the right man was sitting in the firing squad chair. I am troubled by the fact that witnesses saw him move after the bullets entered his body. Did he suffer? Who knows. Could have been normal body reactions to such trauma. That is not the point. The point is that any thought that this cruel murderer may have suffered and died by bleeding out in his last moments churns at my stomach and soul. I don’t know why. Is compassion for even the worst of society a bad thing? I am not sure how that defines me. It reminded me of a scene from Monsters Ball where the prison guard played by Heath Ledger vomited during the transfer of the condemned man to the electric chair. The head guard played by Billy Bob Thornton attacked him for ruining the man’s “last walk”. Regardless of the heinous nature of that man’s humanity and viciousness of crime, he was entitled to as much peace as a human being in civilized society can have during those last moments in life. This of course is not a movie. Randy Lee Gardner is dead. In my opinion justice was served. I am just not sure my sense of humanity was.
Posted on 28 July 2008
Jose Medellin is a convicted rapist. Jose Medellin is a convicted murderer. Fourteen years ago he was sentenced to death for participating in the gang rape and murder of Elizabeth Pena, 16 and Jennifer Ertman who was 14. His execution by lethal injection is set for August 5, 2008. The girls had tragically wandered upon a gang initiation. This would seem to be just one more routine execution of which Texas leads the nation. It would also seem that if anyone deserved to be executed, Mr. Medellin should certainly have that place in death penalty lore. There is one minor twist. Mr. Medellin is a Mexican citizen. He was allegedly denied access to the Mexican consulate after his arrest which is a violation of the Vienna Convention. Mr. Medellin was allegedly never told he had the right to see a Mexican consular officer as required by the Convention. The Vienna Convention is an international treaty governing in part the treatment of citizens of different nations outside of their home countries. The United States is a signatory to this treaty.
In a ironic diplomatic and political twist, the normally pro-capital punishment Bush administration is fighting tooth and nail to save the life of Mr. Medellin. The administration claims there a bigger picture at stake. The picture frame encompasses the rights of United States citizens who may find themselves in similar situations in Mexico and other foreign nations. It is the position of the United States that this matter is governed by the Vienna Convention and that an international court should review Mr. Medellin’s situation before any further action is taken. President Bush tried to resolve the issue three years ago by ordering all states to review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row, including Mr. Medellin, as directed by the International Court pursuant to the Vienna Convention. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that Mr. Bush overstepped his authority and that individual states are not bound by international law on this issue. They held that this particular treaty is not “self-executing”. It also found that in the alternative Congress had not enacted any legislation enacting it. The state of Texas is therefore free to proceed with the execution.
The state of Texas could care less about what the International Court has to say about Mr. Medellin’s rights. Texas has taken the position that Mr. Medellin received fair trial in accordance with state law and any international issues are not its concern. Should the state of Texas care about the bigger picture of international politics, diplomacy and the fair treatment of American’s abroad? There is nothing in the United States Constitution requiring the states of Texas to stand down to the Vienna Convention or practice international diplomacy. This is a states rights issue. Mr. Medellin received the full spectrum of Constitutional rights he was entitled to under state law and Supreme Court rulings extending federal law to his situation. Even assuming he had some state right to consular access, how would this have affected his trial? There was no prejudice.
The Bush administration which is always death penalty friendly has to be choking on its position. It wants Texas to put aside sovereign state rights and consider the bigger picture of international diplomacy. This is a very strange bedfellow with a state’s right to impose and carry out the death penalty. A penalty that is not in conflict with either state or federal law. Does the state of Texas have any obligation to look beyond this? Should not the obligation to enforce its own laws and protect its citizenry take precedence? In the absence of any federal statute conferring jurisdiction over this matter, it would appear that the federal government should butt out and Mr Medellin be executed as scheduled.
The death penalty however must also not be inflicted in an arbitrary manner. The Supreme Court said so in Furman v. Georgia. Does the fact that Texas can choose to execute Mr. Medina and then choose to honor international law sparing the next killer’s life make this an arbitrary imposition of death?
When should a state practice international diplomacy and respect the rule of international law? The answer appears to be one of self serving agendas and political pressure. State diplomacy wins the day here. There is no upside to any upcoming election from the Governor on down if Texas sides with the federal government. The overwhelming majority of Texans want Mr. Medellin executed as quickly as possible. If the state of Texas was concerned about its international reputation would it still be executing Mr. Medellian? What if Mexico was concurrently holding a Texas citizen under sentence of death? What if that citizen has been denied international treaty rights? Would Texas then be eager to execute Mr. Medellin? If Texas has no legal obligation to stop the execution, politics and public perception agendas are all that remain. At this time, Mexico appears to have nothing that Texas wants that would justify “mercy by agenda” Let us hope we have something that Mexico wants when the roles are reversed.
Posted on 22 April 2008
The United States Supreme Court recently gave Texas and other states the go ahead to continue its’ “death machine” with its holding that the current method of lethal injection does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment… What remains to be seen is whether Texas will be the anomaly in its willingness to inject more lethal drugs as nationally executions overall dropped in 2007. Some states are banning executions all together coming to their own determination that lethal injection has its issues.
Is this a social conscience moment towards abolition of the death penalty or just as short lived “point in history” reprieve for those awaiting execution until we find a more uniformly “humane” way of killing…..? Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens stated that while he agreed with the majority that the current version of lethal injection was constitutional, he felt the death penalty in itself was unconstitutional. Is it just a matter of time before the right case comes up before the court to strike down the use of the death penalty forever?
My home state of Texas certainly has no problem executing the guilty and probably even some of the innocent when you look at the fact that it has the highest rate of convictions overturned by DNA evidence in the nation.
People try to complicate the death penalty debate into so many different “pigeon holes’ that the arguments become uncontrollably blurred. You can do it under these circumstances; you can’t do it under those….. Is it not simpler than that? Either you believe the state as the right to take a life in exchange for a life or you don’t. Either you believe the state is entitled to exact “revenge” for the victim or you don’t…. It certainly is not about deterrence. The states are clear that the death penalty does not deter crime.
It is actually more complicated than that. I for example have no problem with the concept of state sponsored revenge. I am not ashamed to say that the fact that there might be a little pain involved in the process does not bother me either….
I however have a real problem with the fact that one innocent person could be executed. The system has proven time and time again to be very fallible.
Let’s say for instance that a child molester has been convicted of raping and killing a little girl. He is sentenced to death. You win the “kill him now” national lottery and are chosen to “pull the switch”. Just when you are about to pull the switch you are told that there is a 1 and 10 chance the person is innocent. In other words there is a 90 percent chance he is guilty. What if you are told there is a 1 in 100 chance he is innocent? You see my dilemma….. At what point is it ok to say he might be innocent but let’s kill him anyways….
What is the acceptable margin of error for a human life? In my opinion anyone who believes that an innocent person has never been executed in this country is very naïve or simply delusional. We say sorry and “that really sucks” and move on to the next bad guy…..
Just something to think about…..