News Column

Texas Ignores U.S. Protests Regarding Execution of Immigrant Charged With Murder

July 8, 2011

Brandon Scott

Despite warnings from the U.S. government, Texas put to death Mexican national Humberto Leal on Thursday for the 1994 abduction, rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Saveda of San Antonio.

Leal, an illegal alien who moved to the U.S. as a young child, was denied legal assistance through the Mexican consulate, an issue that incited challenges to his execution and a flurry of requests for a delay.

The Obama administration had asked the Supreme Court for a stay, expressing concern for Americans accused of crimes while traveling outside the country, according to the Associated Press.

Preston Parsley, who traveled to Huntsville from San Antonio to protest Thursday's execution, said he wanted to express his opposition to what he believes is an unjust practice by the state.

"Proper procedures weren't followed," he said. "This put citizens abroad at risk."

Antonia Mendoza of Houston, who identified herself as Leal's "second aunt," spent time Thursday evening outside the Huntsville "Walls" Unit -- where the death house is located -- comforting Leal's mother, Francisca Leal.

"I'm sad at what she must be going through," Mendoza said. "(Humberto) and I haven't been close. We keep in touch since all this through the news and TV."

Leal's uncle Jaime Sanchez, also from Houston, spoke to The Item through a translator. Sanchez said he felt sad and hoped the U.S. Supreme Court would grant his nephew a last-minute stay of execution.

"I hope they cancel it," he said while gathered with family on the grounds of the Walls Unit before the execution was carried out. "I hope they give more of a chance to look at the evidence and revise the investigation. They're going to make an error if they execute."

But Leal was remorseful leading up to his death. Lying strapped to a gurney in the death house, he apologized for his actions and said he wanted Christ in his life.

"I've hurt a lot of people," Leal said. "I know Christ has forgiven me, and I accept his forgiveness. I am sorry for the victim's family for what I did. May they forgive me. Let's get this show on the road, Warden."

Leal still had one last statement to make before he died, much to the delight of his sister Mary Angel Tello, who wept during the entire process, eventually vomiting while inside the Walls Unit.

"Viva Mexico," Leal said before taking his last breath, and then he shouted, "Viva Mexico."

Last week, the Obama administration asked the Supreme Court to delay Leal's execution for up to six months to give Congress time to consider the newly proposed Consular Notification Compliance Act, which would allow federal courts to review cases of foreign offenders to help determine if the lack of consular help makes a difference in the outcome of their cases, the AP reported.

This legislation would bring the U.S. into compliance with the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations regarding the arrest of foreign nationals. Congress has twice failed to pass similar legislation.

In a 2004 ruling, the International Court of Justice suggested reviewing these cases as a remedy to its finding that the U.S. had violated the Vienna Convention by not allowing 51 Mexican nationals, including Leal, to request help from their consulate when they were arrested.

Leal's defense attorneys told the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles earlier this week that Mexico's assistance came after it was too late to affect the outcome of Leal's trial.

Two inmates in other states have been moved off death row as a result of the ruling, one in Oklahoma and one in Arkansas, according to public records.

The state, however, argued that the evidence, particularly his own statements and those of his brother, convincingly showed Leal's guilt,

Leal's victim, Saveda, was abducted after attending a party Leal hosted. by Leal. Authorities found her nude body near a creek. She had been sodomized with a piece of lumber and her head had been crushed by a 35-pound piece of asphalt. When police arrested Leal, he bore cuts and scratches on his face and body. Evidence also included Saveda's bloody blouse, found at Leal's residence.

Seven more executions are scheduled in Texas this year, including four in September within an eight-day time span.

Source: Copyright (c) 2011, The Huntsville Item, Texas

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