Copyright (c) 2012 Syracuse Law Review
Syracuse Law Review
SYMPOSIUM: CRIME & PUNISHMENT: THE MODERN DEVELOPMENT OF HOMEGROWN CREATIVE JUSTICE: FEDERALISM, HARM, AND THE POLITICS OF LEAL GARCIA V. TEXAS
Syracuse Law Review
62 Syracuse L. Rev. 199
J. Richard Broughton+
Humberto Leal Garcia savagely raped and murdered sixteen-year-old Adria Sauceda in San Antonio in the spring of 1994. 1 A Texas jury sentenced him to death. 2 On these facts alone, his case appears indistinguishable from the dozens of Texas capital cases that regularly receive federal court review, capable of spurring the occasional, predictable complaints about Texas justice and compelling the indignation of the capital defense bar and abolitionist community, but otherwise not especially noteworthy legally or politically. Yet, Texas law enforcement officials investigating the murder did not allow Leal, a Mexican national who had resided in the United States since the age of two, access to the Mexican consulate pursuant to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. 3 So when Leal sought a stay of his Texas execution from the United States Supreme Court in the summer of 2011, he created more than just a legal question for the Court's resolution. His case ignited a storm of controversy at multiple levels of politics - constitutional, international, and electoral.
What may have appeared as a relatively straightforward question about the application of an international treaty to a foreign national subjected to American criminal punishment was certainly much more, implicating issues not only of international law and human rights, but of the structure of American government and the tensions often created in criminal cases by our scheme of federalism. In so doing, Leal's case pitted multiple strains of conservative legal and political thought against one another. On the one hand, ...
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