Leal Garcia v. Texas

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Leal Garcia v. Texas
Seal of the United States Supreme Court.svg
Decided July 7, 2011
Full case name Leal Garcia v. Texas
Docket nos. 11-5001
Prior history Application for stay and on petition for writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit
Holding
Denied Humberto Leal Garcia's application for stay of execution and application for writ of habeas corpus.
Court membership
Case opinions
Per curiam.
Dissent Breyer, joined by Ginsburg, Sotomayor, and Kagan

Leal Garcia v. Texas, No. 11-5001 (2011), was a ruling in which the Supreme Court of the United States denied Humberto Leal García's application for stay of execution and application for writ of habeas corpus.[1] Leal was subsequently executed by lethal injection.[2] The central issue was not the guilty verdict of Leal's case,[3] but rather that he was not notified of the right to call his consulate as required by international law.[4] The Court did not stay the execution because Congress must enact legislation in order for international law to apply.[5] The ruling attracted a great deal of commentary[6] and Leal's case was supported by international law attorneys and former United States diplomats.[7]

Background[edit]

Leal García was a Mexican national[8] who kidnapped, raped, and killed a 16-year-old girl.[9] He was arrested, convicted, and sentenced to death.[9] Citing Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals, a decision by the International Court of Justice, Leal argued that his conviction was obtained in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.[10] Specifically, Leal argued that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention by failing to notify him that he had the right to call his consulate.[4][10] Leal and the United States asked the Supreme Court to stay his execution so that Congress could consider legislation to implement the Avena decision.[11]

The Court previously ruled in Medellín v. Texas that international legal obligations are not binding unless Congress enacts them in a statute.[5][12] Thus the primary focus of Leal's Supreme Court appeal was a bill introduced by Senator Patrick Leahy that would enact the obligations of the Vienna Convention as law (henceforth referred to as Avena legislation).[13]

Opinion[edit]

The opinion of the Court was delivered per curiam. First, the Court considered Leal's claim that executing him while 'Avena' legislation was under consideration violated due process. The Court rejected this claim, stating that due process does not prevent a State from carrying out a lawful judgment in light of unenacted legislation.[14] Second, the Court considered an argument by the United States which claimed that the Court should issue a stay in execution so that the Court could issue a ruling after the 'Avena' legislation had passed. The Court rejected this argument, holding that the Court is tasked with ruling with the law at present, not what it might become in the future.[15] Further, the Court expressed its skepticism that such legislation would ever be enacted.[16][17] Having rejected all arguments, the Court denied Leal's application for stay of execution and application for writ of habeas corpus.

Dissent[edit]

Associate Justice Stephen Breyer dissented, joined by Justice Ginsburg, Justice Sotomayor, and Justice Kagan. Breyer held that a stay in execution would be appropriate.[18] Breyer drew a distinction between the similar case Medellín v. Texas and Leal's case, noting that the Court had refused to grant a stay of execution in Medellín in significant part because the President had not told the Court there would be likely congressional action.[19] Breyer pointed out that in Leal's case congressional action was a reasonable possibility. Further, Breyer argued that under Federal Trade Commission v. Dean Foods Co., the Court could take action to preserve its future jurisdiction that would result upon Congress passing Avena legislation.[20]

Breyer also argued that the Court should defer to the executive branch, per the President's constitutionally based authority in matters of foreign relations.[21]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 4, "The applications for stay of execution presented to JUSTICE SCALIA and by him referred to the Court are denied. The petition for a writ of habeas corpus is denied."
  2. ^ McGreal, Chris Humberto Leal Garcia executed in Texas despite White House appeal The Guardian, "Humberto Leal Garcia was executed by lethal injection for the rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl..."
  3. ^ Cohen, Andrew Humberto Leal Garcia: The Supreme Court Makes a Bad Situation Worse The Atlantic, "...though this is not an evident case of an innocent man wrongly convicted -- no one seriously claims that Texas prosecutors got the wrong man -- the matter of consular notification has been a vibrant topic of international discussion and angst for years."
  4. ^ a b Cohen, Andrew Humberto Leal Garcia: The Supreme Court Makes a Bad Situation Worse The Atlantic, "Leal, convicted of murder in Texas 16 years ago, was denied the right to access to the Mexican consulate at the time of his arrest. In 2004, the International Court of Justice at the Hague declared that such rights were valid under the Vienna Convention."
  5. ^ a b Cohen, Andrew Humberto Leal Garcia: The Supreme Court Makes a Bad Situation Worse The Atlantic, "Congressional action was necessary to allow Leal to fully vindicate his right.... [Congress] was working through the legislation that would expressly adopt consular rights."
  6. ^ Cohen, Andrew Humberto Leal Garcia: The Supreme Court Makes a Bad Situation Worse The Atlantic, "There has been a great deal of analysis and commentary on the Leal case -- some of it better than the rest -- but at heart, Thursday's dramatic events are simple to explain."
  7. ^ Tillman, Zoe Supreme Court Denies Stay of Execution for Humberto Leal Garcia The National Law Journal, "Leal’s request for a stay garnered support from international law attorneys as well as former U.S. diplomats. In a statement Thursday, a group of five former diplomats and attorneys – including former U.S. ambassador to Mexico James Jones, former Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs Thomas Pickering and Arnold & Porter partner and former State Department legal advisor John Bellinger III – called on Congress to ensure the U.S. observes the Vienna Convention."
  8. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 1, "Petitioner Humberto Leal Garcia (Leal) is a Mexican national who has lived in the United States since before the age of two."
  9. ^ a b Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 1, In 1994, he kidnapped 16-year-old Adria Sauceda, raped her with a large stick, and bludgeoned her to death with a piece of asphalt. He was convicted of mur­der and sentenced to death by a Texas court."
  10. ^ a b Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 1-2, "He now seeks a stay of execution on the ground that his conviction was obtained in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations... He relies on Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals... in which the International Court of Justice (ICJ) held that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention by failing to notify him of his right to consular assistance."
  11. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 2, "Leal and the United States ask us to stay the execution so that Congress may consider whether to enact legislation implementing the Avena decision."
  12. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Dissent United States Supreme Court, p. 3, "This Court subsequently held that, because Congress had not embodied our international legal obligations in a statute, the Court lacked the power to enforce those obligations as a matter of domestic law."
  13. ^ Peralta, Eyder. "Mexican National Is Executed, Despite White House's Appeal to High Court." National Public Radio. July 7, 2011. Accessed 2011-07-29.
  14. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 2, "Leal and the United States ask us to stay the execution so that Congress may consider whether to enact legislation implementing the Avena decision. Leal contends that the Due Process Clause prohibits Texas from executing him while such legislation is under consideration. This argument is meritless. The Due Process Clause does not prohibit a State from carrying out a lawful judgment in light of unenacted legislation that might someday authorize a collateral attack on that judgment."
  15. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 2, "First, we are doubtful that it is ever appropriate to stay a lower court judgment in light of unenacted legislation. Our task is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be."
  16. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 3, "If a statute implementing Avena had genuinely been a prior­ity for the political branches, it would have been enacted by now."
  17. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Opinion United States Supreme Court, p. 3, "The United States and JUSTICE BREYER complain of the grave international consequences that will follow from Leal’s execution. Post, at 4. Congress evidently did not find these consequences sufficiently grave to prompt its enactment of implementing legislation, and we will follow the law as written by Congress."
  18. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Dissent United States Supreme Court, p. 1, He asks this Court to stay his execution pending resolution of his petitions for writs of certiorari and habeas corpus. I would grant the applications and stay the execution."
  19. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Dissent United States Supreme Court, p. 3, "And the Court later refused to grant a stay of execution in a similar case in significant part because 'the President... has [not] represented to us that there is any likelihood of congressional... action.'"
  20. ^ Leal Garcia v. Texas, Dissent United States Supreme Court, p. 3, "Finally, this Court has adequate legal authority to grant the requested stay. Should Senator Leahy’s bill become law by the end of September (when we would consider the petition in the ordinary course), this Court would almost certainly grant the petition for a writ of certiorari, vacate the judgment below, and remand the case for further proceedings consistent with that law. Indeed, were the Solicitor General to indicate at that time that the bill was about to become law, I believe it likely that we would hold the petition for at least several weeks until the bill was enacted and then do the same. And this Court, under the All Writs Act, 28 U. S. C. §1651, can take appropriate action to preserve its 'potential jurisdiction.' FTC v. Dean Foods Co"
  21. ^ Liptak, Adam (July 8, 2011). "Mexican Citizen Is Executed as Justices Refuse to Step In". The New York Times. The court should defer to the executive branch’s assessment, Justice Breyer wrote, as ‘the Court has long recognized the president’s special constitutionally based authority in matters of foreign relations.’ 

Further reading[edit]

  • Broughton, J. Richard (2012). "The Modern Development of Homegrown Creative Justice: Federalism, Harm, and the Politics of Leal Garcia v. Texas". Syracuse Law Review 62 (2): 199.