Lost in the dust of the national debt this week was a Texas execution. While every execution is an egregious violation of human rights, this was distinguished in its blatant disregard for not only human life but for the rule of law.
On Thursday, July 7, Texas executed Humberto Leal Garcia, a Mexican national, for the rape and slaying of a teenager. Crime aside, its retribution has only multiplied the wrongdoing. Both Garcia argued and the White House advocated for a Supreme Court stay on the grounds that he was denied help from his home country under international law. This application of due process could have potentially helped him to avoid the death penalty.
At issue was the fact that Mr. Garcia was a Mexican citizen and Texas law enforcement officials failed to tell Garcia that the Vienna Convention gave him the right to notify Mexican consular authorities about his arrest and to seek their help with legal representation.
In its amicus brief filed last week, the White House argued that “The imminent execution of petitioner would place the United States in irreparable breach of its international-law obligation to afford petitioner 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. “ In the brief Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, Jr. further contended that compliance with international treaties helps the U.S. protect its citizens abroad and advance its foreign policy interests. After all, constructive international diplomacy has always been premised on reciprocity.
The majority opinion of the Supreme Court did not agree. In its 5 to 4 ruling along ideological lines, the majority denied the stay, arguing that the court was tasked with ruling on current law, “not what it might eventually be.” While the majority did acknowledge that in 2008 the international court’s ruling was binding, they required action from Congress and not just the President in order to recognize it.
On behalf of the dissenting opinion, Justice Stephen G. Breyer stated “In reaching its contrary conclusion, the court ignores the appeal of the president in a matter related to foreign affairs, it substitutes its own views about the likelihood of congressional action for the views of executive branch officials who have consulted with members of Congress, and it denies the request by four members of the court to delay the execution until the court can discuss the matter at conference in September.” Breyer went on to say, “In my view, the court is wrong in each respect.”
Texas Governor Rick Perry authorized the execution to proceed, defying a request from the White House as well as from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. The latter office asked that Perry commute the sentence to life in prison. A request for a reprieve by the Mexican ambassador to the United States, Arturo Sarukhan, was dismissed by both the US high court and the state of Texas.
“Texas is not bound by a foreign court’s ruling,” Katherine Cesinger, press secretary for Texas Governor Rick Perry, said about the Vienna Convention. We understand that your Governor would like to secede from the Union, but must we remind you Ms. Cesinger, Texas is not empowered with unilateral jurisdiction over foreign nationals?
American history of the western frontier has documented various accounts of “frontier justice” that occurred in Texas in the 1870s. Someone needs to remind Perry and his supporters that it’s no longer 1870. His rogue sense of justice is driving Texas backward in time. Texas has executed more than 4 times the number of people as any other state, and yet murders and violent crimes continue. In fact, nearly every year Texas tops the list as the state with the most executions, with 17 in 2010.
Internationally, the United States stands alone on the issue of capital punishment. According to the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, The US stands virtually alone among nations in the industrialized world in carrying out state executions. Sending foreign nationals to their death in violation of international law simply aggravates an already barbaric practice.
According to the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty, capital punishment goes against almost every religion. Yet, Governor Perry has declared August 6 as a day of prayer: “I invite my fellow Texans to join me on August 6 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, as we pray for unity and righteousness – for this great state, this great nation and all mankind. I urge Americans of faith to pray on that day for the healing of our country, the rebuilding of our communities and the restoration of enduring values as our guiding force.” This of course begs the question of exactly what that “guiding force” might be.
Last week marked the 35th anniversary of the death penalty which some claim is racist and arbitrary in its application . This dubious anniversary has been “celebrated” by Texas’ blatant disregard for life, due process and international law.
With potential Presidential hopeful Perry at its helm, the rogue disregard of humanitarian principles of Texas public policy has now earned it the dubious distinction of the highest uninsured in the nation, Texas has by far the largest number of employees working at or below the federal minimum wage ($7.25 per hour in 2010) compared to any state, shortchanged school districts by $ million, and has doubled its debt.
For those so inclined, I recommend that on August 6 we pray for Mr. Perry, the State of Texas, the soul of Mr. Garcia, and that Mr. Perry will eventually come to discover justice.