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Illegal injections: How Texas is breaking the law, one execution at a time

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A, Created: 2011:04:11 10:43:02

Courtesy photo

Humberto Leal Jr. visiting with Sister Germaine Corbin last month at the TDCJ’s death-row unit in Huntsville, Texas.

Photo: Courtesy: Texas Department of Criminal Justice, License: N/A

Courtesy: Texas Department of Criminal Justice


Perry went ahead with the execution, his staff telling reporters, “The [ICJ] has no jurisdiction here in Texas. We’re concerned about following Texas law and that’s what we’re doing.”

“This case, it’s quite troubling, speaking for myself as the former legal advisor of the State Department, the department that protects Americans around the world,” said Bellinger. “Texas authorities did not see the importance of complying with the Vienna Convention for their own citizens in Texas. … I’m sure they’d feel rather differently if Mexico had arrested residents of Texas who were U.S. citizens and then failed to give them access to the State Department.”

 

 

‘There was just so much drinking’

Humberto Leal’s lawyers, citing the break from the Vienna Convention, still hope for a review of the case, despite Texas’ clear unwillingness to abide with the ICJ’s ruling and Leal’s fast-approaching execution date. Calling Leal’s initial defense team hopelessly deficient, his lawyers cite what they call glaring errors in the investigation, trial, and punishment phase of the case against him 16 years ago.

Sandra Babcock, a Northwestern University law professor and clinical director of the school’s Center for International Human Rights, took over Leal’s defense in 2008, and has since sued Bexar County for refusing to allow re-testing of the one piece of DNA evidence used to convict Leal of capital murder.

Babcock first learned of Leal’s case while working as director of the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program, the vast network for defending Mexicans charged with capital cases in Texas that she headed from 2000 to 2006. “The more I read in this case, there were just all these questions about the evidence used to convict him of a capital crime. And the more I learned, I just became convinced that there was not sufficient evidence for a capital crime,” she said.

According to court records, police searched for and found Sauceda’s body after Leal’s brother and sister rushed back to the house party that morning, saying their brother had returned home rattled and mumbling he had killed someone. Leal walked into a police station later that day and gave two written statements to authorities, first saying he argued with the victim and left her on the side of the road near the party. In the second statement, given almost two hours later, he admitted he pushed the girl to the ground during a fight and ran away scared when she hit her head and stopped breathing.

But convicting Leal of capital murder, and sentencing him to death for it, hinged on proof that he kidnapped and raped the victim, evidence that Babcock insists isn’t there.

When contacted about the case, Jose Guerrero, part of Leal’s initial defense team, said he couldn’t say if his former client had kidnapped, raped, or killed Sauceda. “I don’t really know anymore, to be honest with you. With all that testimony that was taken … there was just so much drinking, the drugs, I don’t know if any of them really remembers.”

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