In executing Humberto Leal Garcia (left), a Mexican sentenced in 1994 for rape and murder, Texas under Gov. Rick Perry ignored the fact that he was never informed, as he should have been under the Vienna Convention, that he could contact his consulate for legal aid. The administration asked for a stay of execution to examine whether his rights and that of 50 other Mexicans on death row had been violated. The Supreme Court declined the stay under a 5-4 decision split ideologically. The action potentially places Americans in jeopardy abroad:
Whether or not Garcia's sentencing would have been different with the help of Mexican lawyers, Texas's decision puts the U.S. in a difficult position abroad -- many worry that, if we do not respect the consular rights of foreign nationals, other countries will have less incentive to respect those of our citizens.
Euna Lee, an American journalist who, along with her colleague Laura Ling, was held captive in North Korea for five months in 2009, has called the Vienna Convention a "lifeline" that helped secure her release. Lee remembers the "sense of security" she gained from knowing that "someone outside of North Korea was monitoring my case. The prompt consular access, I believe, protected me from any physical mistreatment by my captors."
Even Iran has given consular access, if briefly, to the two American hikers in its custody, something Texas has denied Garcia. And during the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, the U.S. sued Iran in the International Court of Justice for violating the same Vienna Convention that Texas is now defying. The ICJ ruled in in America's favor, just as it would rule in Mexico's favor 24 years later, when the Mexican government sued the U.S. for sentencing Garcia and 50 other Mexican citizens to death without honoring their consular rights.