US Supreme Court Rejects Death Sentence Delay for Mexican National

Posted July 7th, 2011 at 7:55 pm (UTC-5)
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The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected calls from around the world — and from the U.S. president — to delay the execution of a Mexican man convicted of a brutal 1994 rape and murder.

Justices Thursday voted 5-to-4 against delaying the execution, which was carried just hours later in Texas.

International diplomats and Mexican authorities had asked for a stay so the case could be reviewed. And U.S. President Barack Obama's top lawyer intervened as well, asking the Supreme Court to delay the sentence for six months.

At isssue was whether the defendent, Humberto Leal, had access to services from the Mexican consulate — a requirement under an international treaty called the Vienna Convention. A U.S. congressman has also proposed a law similar to the Vienna Convention provision requiring U.S. courts to give foreign nationals access to consular services, and to review any convictions to ensure a lack of consular help did not affect the outcome.

Leal's lawyer says with legal assistance from the consulate, Leal might not have been convicted, let alone given a death sentence.

U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verilli said Leal's execution could set a dangerous precedent for U.S. citizens accused of crimes in other countries. He asked the court to grant more time for the proposal to be debated.

But the Supreme Court said it could not rule based on the possibility of a new law. The court said it must rule based on existing law.

Prosecutors noted that similar laws have failed to pass in Congress at least twice before. And they said there was convincing evidence of Leal's guilt.

A similar appeal to the Supreme Court was rejected in 2008, when Texas was set to execute a different Mexican national.