Not even a request from the President for a delay of the execution could save convicted rapist and murderer Humberto Leal Garcia. The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Thursday to ignore the request of the President and execute the Mexican citizen in the state of Texas. The President wanted to delay the execution so that new international law could be considered that would, "provide fresh hearings on whether the rights of Mr. Leal and about 50 other Mexican citizens on death row in the United States had been violated," writes The New York Times. The Supreme Court acknowledged in 2008 that the international court's ruling was binding, but they required action from Congress and not just the President in order to recognize it. In two years that never happened, so the Supreme Court marched forward. In an unsigned letter on the decision the majority judges wrote, "Our task is to rule on what the law is, not what it might eventually be." They also refused to allow the stay because the outcome would not change, saying "we decline to follow the United States’ suggestion of granting a stay to allow Leal to bring a claim based on hypothetical legislation when it cannot even bring itself to say that his attempt to overturn his conviction has any prospect of success."
The dissenting voices argued that the execution would harm foreign policy interests and endanger Americans travelling abroad. Justice Stephen G. Breyer (pictured above) wrote a letter outlining his reasons for siding with the President. Apparently the President only requested a stay until September to give Congress a final opportunity to act. On the court's decision, Breyer wrote this:
In reaching its contrary conclusion the court ignores the appeal of the president in a matter related to foreign affairs, it substitutes its own views about the likelihood of congressional action for the views of executive branch officials who have consulted with members of Congress, and it denies the request by four members of the Court to delay the execution until the court can discuss the matter at conference in September. In my view, the Court is wrong in each respect.
Garcia was executed about an hour after the Supreme Court voted.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.