Saturday, July 9, 2011

Since we're on the topic of American justice . . .

Let’s talk about this Mexican guy that was executed in Texas the other day.  There’s an outcry after the state executed Humberto Leal, a Mexican citizen living in Texas who was convicted for the rape and murder of a 16 year old girl.  The problem people are having with this is that his lawyer, and even Barack Obama, pleaded the Supreme Court to grant him a stay of execution on the grounds that he was not given the chance to receive legal help from the Mexican consulate.

I think this is one of those classic shitty situations, because on one hand justice must be meted out in accordance with our laws, and on the other hand there are international politics to consider.

Let’s start with the main argument, that we’ve fucked shit up for US citizens living in foreign countries.  Apparently the Vienna Convention, which we are a part of, says that participating countries must allow foreign nationals in trouble with the law the ability to seek legal help from their consulate , and some are saying that by not following this other countries will do the same to U.S. citizens.

Of course, we know that already happens, but that’s besides the point.

Here’s why I’m on the fence about this one.  The fact is that there was pretty damn strong evidence supporting the notion that he did in fact commit the crime.  Leal was seen leaving a party with the girl and it was known that he gave her a ride home.  He returned to his own home, where he lived with his brother, covered in blood and saying “I killed a girl.”

In his first statement to police, he said that the girl ran off for some reason.  But when he learned that his brother had told police about what he said, he changed his story saying that she attacked him, and that when he fought back she fell backwards and apparently died.

I suppose that would be all fine and good if it weren’t for a few minor details.  First, he was intoxicated with alcohol and cocaine during the time he allegedly killed her.  Second, it doesn’t help his case that her body was found naked and very battered.  Third, investigation had shown that the cause of death was bludgeoning by a piece of asphalt.

The people who said “fuck it, we’re doing this,” argue that giving him access to his consulate shit would just be a needless waste of time, energy, and money.  So there’s the problem I’m having with it: can we ever say that a particular process in criminal law is too much hassle?

The guy was found guilty, and unlike Casey Anthony it was pretty damn clear.  In fact, right before he was executed he was quoted as saying “I’ve hurt a lot of people.”  And he did at one point cop to killing her.  But the application of the law and international agreements probably should not be arbitrary.

This isn’t something new, as this sort of thing has happened many times before apparently.  There’s apparently some members of congress who are trying to legislate a way to be in compliance with the Vienna Convention, but it’s not law yet, and that’s what the SCOTUS based its decision on: the fact that it’s not law yet, and they can only rule on what is actually law.

The man was likely a murderous scum bag, but he was still human.  If we believe in fair trials and the rule of law, indeed if we enter into international agreements, we ought to apply that law and procedure evenly regardless of the crime.

Perhaps this is a Machiavellian moment in which principle clashes with pragmatism.


Silverfiddle said...

He did get access, just too late. What complicated this was that he and his parents were here illegally, living life as American citizens, which is great until you find it more advantageous to declare yourself Mexican.

The world is a better place now that this pos has crossed the river styx.

Harrison said...

The international law was never passed in the US and hence is not law. Enough said.

William McCullough said...

In that he brazenly uttered "Viva Mexico" as the juice coursed through his viens, his body should be sent back to Mexico where I'm sure he is mrevered as another victim of 'Yankee' aggression....

Peter McCullough said...

Case in point: While attending business law class the Haitian professor told our class of an incident in Haiti; man decapitates neighbor over some jealosy, man confesses, medical examiner at scene neglects to sign cause of death certificate, Haitian law says no death certificate, no death, perpetrator goes free.Much easier than months long trials where the attorney's turn the law upside down to free confessed murders over here. Yes Virginia, there is not always justice in the law.

Jack Camwell said...

You bring up a good point that even the law itself can be unjust, try as we might to make it an instrument of justice.