President Obama is asking the Supreme Court to stay tomorrow’s planned execution of a Mexican citizen in Texas, arguing it could do “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad.
In 1994, Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. was convicted of rape and murder and sentenced to death. Few are contesting his guilt, but an omission in the handling of his case may make things tough for American citizens arrested abroad: Leal wasn’t told that he could contact the Mexican Consulate.
The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty that includes 170 countries, says a foreigner who is arrested must be allowed access to her home country’s consulate. The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004 that U.S. states’ sentencing of 54 Mexican citizens to death without allowing them to contact the Mexican Consulate was a violation of the treaty. Then-president George W. Bush ordered Texas to review its policies, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that neither Texas nor any U.S. state could be held to an international treaty unless Congress passed a law binding them to it.
Now, President Obama is asking the Supreme Court to stay the execution until Congress passes such legislation, which was recently introduced in the Senate. The administration says the execution would do “irreparable harm” to U.S. interests abroad.