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Federal Judge Won't Stop Texas Execution of Mexican National
The Associated Press
A federal judge has refused to stop the upcoming execution of a Mexican national convicted of the 1994 rape-slaying of a 16-year-old San Antonio girl.
Humberto Leal, 38, a native of Monterrey, Mexico, faces lethal injection July 7 in Huntsville, Texas.
Leal's attorneys argued his punishment should be blocked because he wasn't told he could contact the Mexican consulate for legal help after his arrest for the murder of Adria Sauceda. They also said a bill introduced this month in Congress would allow federal courts to review cases of condemned foreign nationals.
U.S. District Judge Orlando Garcia ruled Wednesday the consulate claim was "utterly lacking in arguable merit."
He also said the measure introduced June 11 by Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy was "a mere proposal" and that similar attempts have failed twice in recent years.
"It is not an enactment of new law," Garcia said.
Leal's attorneys presented several dozen former diplomats, State Department officials and retired military officers backing their appeal and the likelihood that Leahy's measure would pass Congress.
Garcia dismissed them as "little more than highly speculative predictions from a variety of political science professors and a handful of hopeful executive branch and congressional officers."
Sandra Babcock, an attorney for Leal and a Northwestern University Law School professor, said Garcia's decision would be appealed.
"With consular access, Mr. Leal would have had highly qualified and experienced lawyers and expert assistance that would have transformed the quality of his defense," she said. "The legislation before Congress is narrowly tailored to provide review for precisely this kind of case where lack of consular assistance may have made the difference between life and death.
"Mr. Leal is constitutionally entitled to receive a stay of execution while Congress is considering taking the necessary measures to remedy this serious violation."
Leal had contended in earlier appeals he should have been allowed to pursue an appeal after President George W. Bush in 2005 agreed with an international court ruling that Leal and 50 other Mexican-born inmates should be entitled to new hearings in U.S. courts to determine if their consular rights were violated at the time of their arrests.
The U.S. Supreme Court subsequently overruled Bush and the impact of the International Court of Justice decision. The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited the Supreme Court's ruling in denying Leal in 2009.
Police summoned to a dirt road on San Antonio's south side in May 1994 found a gruesome scene. Sauceda's nude body had been bludgeoned with a chunk of asphalt. Evidence showed she had been raped, bitten and strangled. A large stick that had a screw protruding from it was left in her body.
Among other evidence, the bite mark was matched to Leal. Her bloody blouse was found at Leal's home. She and Leal had been attending a party not far from where she was found.
His lawyers say the bite mark match is junk science. They say the dirty blouse was found outside and his mother had planned to wash it and include it in items she donated to Mexico.
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