President Barack Obama joined media in undermining US law by elevating international law in the bizarre case of murderer and rapist Humberto Leal. For the second time, Texas Gov. Rick Perry wasn’t buying it. Why Americans should thank Perry for rising above hysterics attributed to the Vienna Convention but in fact related to advocacy for abolishing the death penalty.
LEAL’S CASE—COMPLICATED YET SIMPLE
As the execution date for convicted rapist and murderer Humberto Leal approached, US media memed the federal government and Mexico’s talking points. Reporters at every network, even those perceived as conservative, bandied about the lofty sounding term ‘Vienna Convention.’ Some warned the U.S. would risk lives if Texas Gov. Rick Perry didn’t halt the execution.
President Barack Obama’s solicitor general took Mexico’s position, advocating for Leal, trying to stop the execution and buy Leal 6 more months of life.
Congress bought into this approach, with progressive Democrat Patrick Leahy of Vermont pushing legislation to, as the Associated Press said, “bring the U.S. into compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations provision regarding the arrests of foreign nationals…”
Missing from all the rhetoric and political grandstanding: Leal’s victim and a major political issue.
THE REAL VICTIM
The sixteen year old girl Leal killed is referred to as Adria Saveda in some documents from the 1990s when Leal committed the crime. Recent accounts refer to her as Adria Sauceda.
Texas lists photos and details about Death Row inmates online. There is a verbatim description of Leal’s crime he committed against a victim categorized as “Hispanic female” on May 21, 1994:
“Summary: Convicted in the abduction, rape and bludgeoning death of 16-year-old Adria Saveda of San Antonio. Saveda was raped with a piece of lumber and her head crushed by a 35 pound piece of asphalt after being abducted from a party by Leal. Her nude body was found near a creek off Reforma Drive with the piece of lumber still protruding from her vagina. When arrested, police found scratches and cuts on Leal’s face and body.”
THE VIENNA CONVENTION, THE ‘AVENA’ CASE AND POLITICS
Obama followed the policy of President George W. Bush on the point of executing a foreign national—that term, by the way, is both accurate and misleading.
Leal, like Jose Ernesto Medellin'S case Bush attempted to intervene in, had been in the U.S. for years, benefiting from educational opportunities and any other opportunities available to those in the U.S. legally or illegally. If they’re children, they qualify for federal assistance and a free public education.
Medellin’s crime was equally as brutal as Leal’s. Medellin and his fellow gang members gang-raped, tortured and murdered two teenage girls in Houston in 1993.
Ted Cruz, the first Hispanic solicitor general in Texas—Cruz is also running for a US Senate seat—wrote an eloquent and articulate explanation of the Medellin case and its repercussions for The Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy. Cruz said Medellin “waived his Miranda rights and wrote a four-page hand-written confession” of the crime against the two teens who were walking home and had the tragic misfortune of encountering Medellin and his gang.
Cruz wrote: “Displaying no remorse whatsoever, he [Medellin] admitted gang-raping both girls, and he described how they pleaded for their lives before he stomped on one girl's neck and strangled them both with a shoelace and a belt.”
Cruz’s article should be required reading for every member of Congress, and every American who cares about liberty should read the article too. Cruz explains why the Supreme Court upheld US law, declining to bow at the political altar of the World Court’s Avena decision.
Perry upheld the laws of his state by going through with Medellin’s execution.
Cruz pointed out that Avena aimed at getting the U.S. to “reopen the convictions and sentences of fifty-one Mexican nationals on death row across the country.”
Cruz wrote, “For the first time in the history of our nation, a foreign tribunal attempted to bind the US justice system, and to disturb final criminal convictions.”
The article is lengthy, but it is written so clearly even a layperson can understand it. The article explains much of the foundation for Bush ’43 and Obama’s siding with a foreign country over the issue of U.S. law.
Bush '43, however, can be given a small pass because a Supreme Court ruling hadn't been made when he asked for the cases to be reviewed. (See the followup below this article.)
US HELD TO STANDARDS OTHER COUNTRIES WON’T ADOPT
Cruz points out the double standard in numerous countries hoping to foist laws on US citizens, and in the process, undermine US sovereignty as well as disturb the separation of powers in our government.
Cruz explained that the Medellin case decision “rightly held that World Court decisions do not have authority greater than that of US domestic courts, that the World Court cannot overrule the Supreme Court, and that the executive branch cannot unilaterally set aside state laws inconsistent with its policy preferences.”
Cruz also noted 90 nations filed amicus briefs against Texas in the US Supreme Court case, but “not one of those nations enforces the Vienna convention or the judgments of the World Court in its own courts.”
Cruz pointed out the irony in all those nations pushing the U.S. to undermine her own sovereignty even as they clung to their own.
CUTTING THROUGH BUSH AND OBAMA’S POLITICS
The state of Texas permits capital punishment for certain crimes. Mexico, whose murder plagued country displays little regard for human life, does not.
In 2003 The San Antonio Express News featured an article about Mexico lobbying for a halt on executions of Mexicans in the U.S. Mexico wanted the World Court to “order a temporary halt,” said the paper.**
The article referenced the case of Javier Suarez who murdered an undercover Dallas police officer in 1988.
The article also carried remarks by a political science professor who taught at Mexico’s National Autonomous University.
Professor Federico Estevez said Mexico was “grandstanding.” Mexico wanted to gain domestic political capital by appearing to be concerned about the wellbeing of Mexicans living in the U.S.
A historian and human rights activist living in Matamoros, Andres Cuellar, told the paper Mexico “was sending an important message that could one day lead to big changes.” Ironically Cuellar suggested Mexico had more respect for human life than the U.S. and he also said that by appealing to the World Court, “Mexico has won by asserting itself before the world.”
What the grandstanding was really about (and still is) is the death penalty.
VIENNA, AVENA AND A PREDICTION
The Vienna Convention articles and the history are published online. Leal and Medellin’s appeals stem from Article 36.
The Vienna Convention’s consular function began with concerns related to international trade and economic interests of countries. Over several decades, the United Nations like any other bureaucracy, expanded provisional rules, but the spirit of the convention related to those connected to consular matters much like policies applicable to diplomats.
The UN history of the Vienna Convention includes the acknowledgment that "interpretations" of Article 36 have "varied widely." Those interpretations include non-recognition of rights conferred.
It wasn't until 1999, years after Leal's crime, that the Inter-American Court of Civil Rights issued an advisory opinion, says the history, "that articles 36 creates individual rights, as a 'notable exception to what are essentially States' rights and obligations accorded elsewhere" in the Convention.
The UN Treaty web pages explain why Mexico and like-minded countries attempt to interfere with other sovereign powers’ criminal justice laws. One page references the Avena and other Mexican Nationals case, noting:
“These cases may eventually carry significant consequences for countries legally imposing the death penalty: ‘That is, only where the most rigorous standards of fairness and legality of international jurisprudence are scrupulously followed.’”
Cruz puts all the international politicizing in a context that should raise concern in the hearts of every US citizen who values her country’s sovereignty:
“Medellin was a significant victory for U.S. sovereignty, for separation of powers, and for federalism. Yet these fights will keep on coming. The creep of international law, and the asserted authority of international tribunals, will pose one of the greatest challenges of coming decades. And there will remain a continued need to defend our sovereignty, and our structural limitations on government, so as to preserve our liberty.”
Presidents Bush 43 and Obama willingly yielded US sovereignty to a foreign state although Obama's offense is greater because he should be aware of the SCOTUS ruling. Sen.
Leahy is attempting to do the same with his ill-conceived legislation.
The Obama administration took matters one step further, by suing states like Arizona over law enforcement’s procedures regarding illegal aliens. It is of course impossible to know whether a defendant should be able to contact his consul because law enforcement cannot ask about immigration status.
Gov. Rick Perry upheld the laws he took an oath to defend. The governor deserves praise for his courage and for upholding US sovereignty. Perry withstood international political assaults in the cases of Medellin and Leal.
US media deserves scorn for acting as de facto lobbyists for foreign interests and for dismissing the pain caused by murderers and rapists for the families of innocent girls slain so young, in such a brutal manner, on American streets by those who responded to America’s goodness and charity with brutality and violence.
Suarez and Leal allegedly said the words, “Viva, Mexico,” as they died.
(Analysis by Kay B. Day/July 8. 2011)
**Print Source: ‘Nationalism rears its head; Defending killers not main reason'; The San Antonio Express News; January 22, 2003; A Section; by Dane Schiller, Mexico City Bureau.
Ted Cruz slams Obama's meddling in Leal case (Pajamas Media)
Avena decision upends pending Texas execution...(The US Report)
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Excellent commentary from David Holford about this matter, including a point I didn't realize. When Bush 43 asked for the cases to be reviewed, SCOTUS hadn't ruled yet. This lightens the load for Bush somewhat. Holford wrote:
"The current administration and the media have tried to bolster their position (and yes, it is the same position) by suggesting that Bush endorsed the ruling of the International Court of Justice that led to his order that the states review the Mexican cases. Rather, Bush only ordered the review because he thought he was duty-bound to do so, because the US was a signatory to the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention, which says that ICJ decisions are binding on the parties before it. He was under the impression that the Optional Protocol was binding on the states. However, in 2008 the US Supreme Court said no, in Medellín v. Texas (552 U.S. 491). Since the Supreme Court, not the Executive Branch, decides what is and isn’t the law, it didn’t matter what President Bush thought and it doesn’t matter what President Obama thinks."
Read Holford's article about the Humberto Leal case--it's worth your time.