Why the president and the UN's push to stay the execution of the killer of a 16-year-old girl is groundless.
Humberto Leal Garcia, who has been in the United States illegally since he was two years old, faces execution for the brutal kidnapping, rape, and murder of a 16-year-old girl in 1994. Garcia was 21 when he committed the crime for which he is now scheduled to face the death penalty. But not if President Barack Obama and the United Nations have their way.
The prosecution’s evidence at Garcia's trial included two incriminating statements he made to the police during non-custodial interviews on the day of the murder. It also included forensic evidence.
More specifically, the evidence established that the night on which teenage girl was sexually assaulted and slain: (1) Garcia carried her in an intoxicated semi-conscious state into his car; (2) Garcia was the last known individual to see girl alive; (3) Garcia confessed to police and his brother that he had killed the girl, although he claimed it was an accident; (4) when the girl was placed in Garcia's car, she was fully clothed; when her body was discovered on a dirt road not far from a party that she and Garcia both attended, it was nude with a stick protruding from her body and (5) a piece of the girl's bloodied clothing was located at Garcia's home. Scratches and cuts on Garcia's face also linked him to the killing.
Garcia was represented by counsel at the trial and on the case’s numerous appeals. He was found guilty, a verdict which has been upheld on appeal. Nevertheless, the Obama administration has followed its pattern of taking states to court regarding illegal aliens, appealing last Friday to the U.S. Supreme Court to stay Garcia's execution, scheduled to take place in Texas on July 7th. The administration is hung up on the technicality that Garcia, whom the administration described in its 30-page brief to the Supreme Court as "a Mexican national who has resided in the United States since he was two years old," was not given advice regarding the opportunity to contact the Mexican consulate after his arrest, which is reportedly required under the international treaty known as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Note that he was not prevented from requesting contact with the Mexican consulate.
Garcia is trying to take advantage of a ruling of the International Court of Justice requiring the review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of Mexican nationals whose "rights" under the Vienna Convention have been supposedly violated. In 2004, the International Court of Justice determined, in what is known as the Avena case, that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention by failing to inform 51 Mexican nationals, including Garcia, of their Vienna Convention rights, and by failing to notify consular authorities of the detention of 49 Mexican nationals, including Garcia.
The international court ruled that the appropriate remedy for those violations “consists in the obligation of the United States of America to provide, by means of its own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of [affected] Mexican nationals.” The international court stated that review and reconsideration should occur through a judicial process and that the relevant inquiry in that process would be whether the treaty violation caused actual prejudice to the defendant.
Garcia has already received this judicial review in the United States at the state and federal level. He has lost multiple appeals. The Texas trial court rejected the no consulate contact claim on the merits, finding that because Garcia was not in custody at the time he was interviewed by the police, Vienna Convention obligations were not triggered and, accordingly, his statements were not obtained in contravention of the Vienna Convention. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals likewise denied relief based on the trial court’s findings and its own review. Multiple appeals at the state and federal court level followed, each resulting in a rejection of the argument that Garcia's rights were violated as a result of his not being informed of the opportunity to seek the advice of the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest.
In fact, the Federal District Court found that there was “no arguable merit” to Garcia's claim that he had sustained “actual prejudice.” Conducting what it described as the judicial review and reconsideration required by the International Court of Justice decision, the court stated that there was “little the Mexican government could have done to aid petitioner’s trial counsel.” The federal Court of Appeals vacated this specific finding on the technicality that the district court had erroneously assumed "hypothetical jurisdiction" -- whatever that means -- but dismissed Garcia's claim anyway.
The fact is that every state and federal court that has considered Garcia's contention that he was actually prejudiced by not having been advised of the opportunity to contact the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest has dismissed the claim.
Nevertheless, the Obama administration has decided to ride to Garcia's rescue. In its brief filed last week with the United States Supreme Court, the Obama administration claimed that going ahead with the execution "would place the United States in irreparable breach of its international-law obligation to afford (Leal Garcia) review and reconsideration of his claim that his conviction and sentence were prejudiced by Texas authorities' failure to provide consular notification and assistance under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations...That breach would have serious repercussions for United States foreign relations, law-enforcement and other cooperation with Mexico, and the ability of American citizens traveling abroad to have the benefits of consular assistance in the event of detention."
The administration wants the Supreme Court to stay Garcia's execution for at least six months. The stated purpose of the delay is to give Congress an opportunity to pass legislation that the Supreme Court, in a previous decision involving Mexican nationals, said would make the Avena ruling of the International Court of Justice legally binding under the U.S. Constitution and on the individual states. The legislation would then determine the manner in which the United States abides by that ruling. But the Supreme Court decided that it would not then delay the carrying out of a state court's death sentence on the possibility that such legislation might be passed at some later date.
Three years later, two of which the Democrats controlled both the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as the White House, Congress has still failed to act. Nothing has really changed to justify a decision by the Supreme Court to, in the absence of congressional action, reverse its prior hands-off approach and interfere with the carrying out of Garcia's death sentence.
Of course, that does not stop the Obama administration from trying. Despite Congress' inexplicable foot dragging after the last Supreme Court decision on this matter, the Obama administration is suddenly trying to convey that Congress is now moving vigorously ahead. It noted in its filing with the Supreme Court that the Consular Notification Compliance Act has at long last been introduced into the Senate with the hope of passage this session. However, says the administration, even more time is needed to give both houses of Congress the opportunity to consider and pass this legislation. Particularly with the Republicans now controlling the House of Representatives, there is little likelihood of success.
In short, under the Obama administration's reasoning, the illegal alien Garcia gets to hide behind the United States Congress' long legislative process in order to put off his execution for the crimes he committed in the state of Texas against a Texas citizen. Apparently, 17 years of delay in carrying out the sentence, as Garcia filed multiple judicial appeals, are just not enough. Those 17 years are longer than his murder victim was alive. But the Obama administration wants to buy him even more time.
Garcia also has the United Nations in his corner, which appealed to Texas Governor Rick Perry for a stay. "The lack of consular assistance and advice raises concerns about whether or not Mr. Leal Garcia's right to a fair trial was fully upheld," said Rupert Colville, the spokesman for the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay.
Christof Heyns, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, went even further. He warned that "[I]f the scheduled execution of Mr. Leal Garcia goes ahead, the United States government will have implemented a death penalty after a trial that did not comply with due process rights. This will be tantamount to an arbitrary deprivation of life."
Texas thankfully denied the UN's request for a stay of Garcia's execution on such preposterous grounds.
This illegal alien, who has lived in the United States virtually all of his life, has found it convenient to re-discover his Mexican roots as a "Mexican national" just in time to exploit a loophole in the international law governing the reciprocal treatment by countries of each other's citizens when they are arrested. He was not detained by American federal or state law enforcement officials while in the United States on a business trip or a vacation. Nor was he a worker temporarily in the United States with a visa who got caught up in a problem with the American law. These are the types of individuals who may legitimately need the help of their home country to intercede on their behalf. Garcia, on the other hand, was living his life in the United States since he was two years old, with no discernible attachment to Mexico.
How ironic it is that if Garcia had not killed the 16-year-old girl and continued living his life day-to-day as an illegal alien in the United States, he would no doubt have challenged any deportation efforts to send him back to his native Mexico. And there is little doubt that if Garcia had no criminal record, the Obama administration would not have pursued the deportation. Indeed, under the Dream Act, if it had passed, a crime-free Garcia could have been converted into a legal immigrant on the path to American citizenship. But once having been convicted by the court of the state of Texas where he was living when he committed his capital crime, Garcia expects to be protected as a poor "Mexican national" who apparently woke up one day and found himself in the strange land of the United States of America since the age of 2 with no recourse but the assistance of the consulate of his birth country. And the Obama administration is helping him, along with the United Nations.
Justice delayed is justice denied. The 16-year-old girl who was kidnapped, raped and murdered so many years ago deserves that justice be finally exacted against her murderer. The girl's family deserves closure. It is time that the Obama administration began to worry more about the welfare of innocent American citizens than the welfare of the illegal aliens who prey on them.
Joseph Klein is the author of a recent book entitled Lethal Engagement: Barack Hussein Obama, the United Nations and Radical Islam.