- (Photo: Reuters / Lee Celano)
President Barack Obama and world agencies are pressuring Texas Governor Rick Perry, a conservative and death penalty supporter, to commute the scheduled Thursday execution of Mexican national Humberto Leal Garcia Jr. in the interest of international relations.
Garcia, now 38, is one day away from execution for the 1994 rape and murder of a 16-year-old girl. However, the Obama administration is voicing concerns that executing Garcia could endanger relations with Mexico and the rest of the world.
Executing the foreign national "would have serious repercussions for United States foreign relations, law enforcement and other co-operation with Mexico, and the ability of American citizens traveling abroad to have the benefits of consular assistance in the event of detention," said Solicitor General Donald Verrilli.
Obama officials are urging Perry to change Garcia's sentence to life imprisonment rather than execution.
The United Nations and Amnesty International have also requested that the sentence be commuted to life.
During Garcia's trial, he was represented by a court-appointed attorney. Through consular assistance, Garcia could have been represented by an attorney provided by the Mexican consulate in the U.S.
The U.S. Senate is considering legislation that would allow federal courts to review cases of condemned foreign nationals to determine whether the lack of consular help made a significant difference in the outcome of their cases.
However, that legislation is still pending and Garcia is hours away from meeting his decided end.
The Monterrey, Mexico, native was convicted in 1994 in the rape and murder of Andria Sauceda after evidence was discovered linking him to the crimes.
Sauceda's naked body was found with a large stick protruding from her. She had also been bitten and her head crushed by a lump of asphalt.
The bite mark was matched to Garcia. The victim's bloody shirt was also found in his home.
Garcia maintains that he is innocent. He claims the girl attacked him and died when she fell, hitting her head on the asphalt, and lost consciousness.
Garcia's lawyers note that it is "plausible" he was responsible for Miss. Sauceda's death.
However, they contend that if he had been given consular assistance rather than a state-appointed defense lawyer, Garcia would probably have been convicted of manslaughter rather than murder.
Garcia has been unsuccessful at swaying Texas lawyers so far.
Polls conducted in 2010 show that two out of three Americans (64 percent) favor the death penalty. Additionally, Texas executes more prisoners than any other U.S. state.
Gov. Perry, a spokesman for conservative Christian values, backs the death penalty, according to the Telegraph.
His track record shows that Perry has refused clemency in 230 executions, almost half the 470 executions in Texas since the death penalty was reinstated in 1974, as reported by the Telegraph. He has also commuted the death sentences of 31 inmates.
The Southern Baptist Convention in 2000 approved a resolution supporting the "fair and equitable use of capital punishment by civil magistrates as a legitimate form of punishment for those guilty of murder or treasonous acts that result in death."
However, many ministers are opposed to the death penalty because they say it unfairly targets minorities and the poor.
The U.S. Supreme Court is due to decide whether to issue a stay of execution.
Of the 31 death sentences Perry has pardoned, 28 involved cases in which the defendant was a juvenile at the time of the crime, and the Texas governor acted after a Supreme Court ruling on the issue.