Humberto Leal’s Execution Violates International Law

Humberto Leal Jr. is slated to be executed by the state of Texas on July 7th.  His death will represent a grave miscarriage of justice as he received his sentence in clear violation of international law, which mandates that foreign nationals, like Mr. Leal, must be advised of their right to consular assistance after they have been arrested and charged.  

The absence of such consultation has had particularly devastating consequences for Mr. Leal, as he received grossly inadequate representation and could be executed for a crime that he may not have committed.
Mr. Leal was convicted of a truly grisly crime, the 1994 rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda.  Ms. Sauceda was gang-raped by eight or nine men at a house party. A few hours later, Ms. Sauceda’s naked and battered body was found by police. According to the state of Texas, Mr. Leal was responsible for these horrific acts. Mr. Leal has consistently and vigorously contested this version of events. 

It was no easy task to sort through the various accounts of the evening and this difficulty was greatly compounded by the fact that Mr. Leal’s court-appointed attorneys were severely unprepared to investigate and argue his case, failing to point out the many inconsistencies and uses of faulty forensic science that the prosecution relied on to secure their conviction.
While the problem of inadequate representation at trial is pervasive in death penalty cases, the concern is especially relevant here because it is the direct result of Texas’ violation of the Vienna Convention, an international treaty which the U.S. has signed.  Mr. Leal was never given an opportunity to speak with the Mexican Consulate after his arrest, denying him the chance to secure lawyers who would have effectively advocated on his behalf and likely prevented him from being convicted at all. 

In fact, Mr. Leal did not even receive information on how to contact the Consulate until after his incarceration, when he was given their phone number by a fellow prisoner.  Mr. Leal had no prior criminal record, was the victim of childhood sexual abuse and suffered from disabilities as a result of brain damage. In short, he has lived a difficult life, and, as Northwestern Law Professor Sandra Babcock puts it, is “precisely the sort of person Article 36 of the Vienna Convention was meant to protect.”
Sadly, Mr. Leal is not the only foreign national who has been sentenced to die in contravention of the Vienna Convention. In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled that Texas had similarly violated the rights of more than 50 Mexican nationals, and ordered review of their cases. Then-President Bush sided with the ICJ and wrote a presidential memorandum which urged Texas to comply with the ruling. Unfortunately, the Texas Court of Appeals failed to follow these directions, arguing that state courts should not have to abide by the international court’s ruling.  The U.S. Supreme Court ended up siding with Texas in its 2008 decision in Medellin v. Texas, holding that absent a congressional mandate, the presidential and international directives held no legal force. Since that time, Texas has executed four foreign nationals, and 23 others remain on death row.
These cases represent a serious human rights issue that demands immediate action.  Mr. Leal’s case, in addition to being a tragic reminder of how disparate access to adequate legal representation undermines the legitimacy of capital punishment, also raises serious questions about the United State’s commitment to international law. 

Given that the United States signed the Vienna Convention precisely to ensure that Americans abroad would receive fair treatment in foreign courts, killing Mr. Leal would be an act of brazen hypocrisy which is not likely to go unnoticed and could jeopardize the safety of American citizens living in foreign countries. Why should other nations play by the rules when it is clear that the U.S. is not going to?  When signatories to international treaties are allowed to flagrantly violate them whenever it suits them, it undermines the legitimacy of international law and puts all of us at risk.
Please take a moment to urge the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to stop the execution of Humberto Leal. His life, and our safety abroad, depends on it. 

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Photo credit: Death Penalty Focus
By Stefanie Faucher, Associate Director of Death Penalty Focus


Velmapearl Hawkins
Velma Hawkins6 years ago

I feel many poor, misrepresented, and under-represented convicted murderers have been unjustly put to death, Many more await death on death row's throughout the USA. inadequate attorney representation is at the root of many cases and the lack of money to afford proper, attorney of your choice, and DNA testing can reduce or elliminate unjust, wrongful executions, while putting real criminals behind bars or to death in DNA cases where they have the true guilty party's DNA, as well. But wrongful execution or waiting like Damien Echols has done on death row and never knowing when the death warrant will be served is torture. So he had double what Jason and Jessie were forced to mentally deal with.(to the extent of what we know they were facing). It just doesn't work.

Cath Bono
Kate A6 years ago

Before they issue the Death Penalty, all the evidence should be re-investigated.

TERRY R6 years ago


Joy Jin
Joy Jin6 years ago

He might have lied. He might have been guilty, but still, the death penalty should be illegal.

Winston G.
Winston G.6 years ago

And exactly how stupid does Stephanie F feel for writing this pathetic load of cr@p (gee, the facts are so hard to deciper, inconsistent, faulty science, unprepared attorney, blah blah blah) now after hearing that the scumbag apologized for committing the rape/murder just before execution? My guess is that the answer is "not very", because the facts don't fit her twisted narrative. So she'll just ignore them.

Raymond  Cornes
.6 years ago

David C, Many thanks for your message I have recived, Your President and Mrs Clinton are very concerned for the US Detainees held in other Countries, it is very clear what will happen now, when the trials are heard concerning US Detainee they will not be allowed access to the
US Embassys to arrange for their Defence,
this has you correctly stated, may also apply to US Personal overall, but this is not the frist time it happened, so I have read.
I asked for a Stay of Execution in my comment a few days ago, this would been a chance to put the matter right, so that Justice can seen to done, The US Court has completely mess things up for the People of the US now.

David C.
David Connally6 years ago

Jerk he may have been, guilty he my have been, but that is not the point. If Texas can unilaterally ignore a treaty signed by the US then that treaty is no longer binding on Texans or other Americans arrested abroad. No screaming and yelling please if an American citizen is denied access to US embassy personnel.

Paul B.
Paul B6 years ago

Casey Anthony is lucky she didn't live in Texas. This guy got what he deserved. good riddance. He is a good example to others who might consider doing what he did. Fear is sometimes the only thing that gets peoples attention.

Dodia Fae
Dodia Fae6 years ago

@ Raymond - "where are the rest of the Gang to suffer the Exexcution as Leal"

The rest of the gang would be accused of rape, and possibly accessory to murder, but Leal was the one who committed the murder. Unfortunately, rape (even gang rape) does not carry the death penalty in the US, so the others would not be sentenced to death for that crime alone.

As for the outcry for the US apparently not alerting Mexico to this guy's "plight", boof***inghoo. No, seriously. Did you all know that the Mexican government has been crying about the US sending illegals who've committed violent crimes and served their time here back to Mexico? They don't want them back. Do you really think they'd want this degenerate back? Do you think they'd really lift a finger to help this guy when there's a chance that their "help" could result in his eventual release and deportation? Not likely.

Raymond  Cornes
.6 years ago

I agree Leal is Animal and he dead, however, How will the People in US be treated in another Countries due to the fact that the US do not comply the International Law, this is the problem the US is facing, indeed he amitted, but don't you think for the benefit of the people of the US living abroad now it would have been wise to order a stay of Execution so that all Evidences could be Addressed in your courts instead of half the Evidence, indeed this would be in my view a far better way of dealing with the matter.

Even though he amitted, there is alot of unanswered questions in this matter, further to this has Justice seen to been done, the ICJ does not think so.

the Girl was I recall, Gang Rape at a Party, where are the rest of the Gang to suffer the Exexcution as Leal, it without doubt that they indeed are still out there in US or Other Countries, were are your brains, by ordering a stay of Execution (Delay in Exexcution) and addressing Evidence this would indeed have lead US to obtaining more information on the Gang and Justice would indeed been seen to done.

So this is the end of it, you execute one of Gang, I think you need to find the rest of the Gang don't you, so Justice may seen do be done for the poor girl don't you.

I will be awaiting when Your Government calls on the Internaional Community to come together to help another country indistress, the US are not even a member of the Community by way the US will not comply with Internation Law.