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Texas parole board won't stop execution drawing national attention

July 5, 2011 at 11 p.m.


HOUSTON (AP) - The Texas parole board refused Tuesday to stop this week's scheduled execution of a Mexican man for raping and killing a 16-year-old girl, while the state attorney general's office said appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court from the man's attorneys were without merit.

Humberto Leal, 38, faced lethal injection Thursday in Huntsville for the 1994 slaying of Adria Sauceda of San Antonio. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted 4-1 to deny a reprieve request. The same panel refused to commute Leal's death sentence to life in prison.

His scheduled execution has raised diplomatic concerns involving the government of Mexico, the State Department and the White House. All of them have agreed with Leal's attorneys he should be spared because of questions about whether the outcome of his trial would have been different if he had been allowed to obtain legal help from the Mexican consulate when arrested.

Similar 11th-hour arguments were raised in recent years for at least one other condemned Texas prisoner. In that case, in 2008, Jose Medellin was executed for his participation in the rape and slayings of two Houston teenage girls.

"At this point, it is clear that Leal is attempting to avoid execution by overwhelming the state and the courts with as many meritless lawsuits and motions as humanly possible," Stephen Hoffman, an assistant Texas attorney general, told the court Tuesday in a brief opposing appeals to stop Leal's execution.

Leal's appeals, already rejected by Texas courts and lower federal courts, focused on a bill introduced last month by U.S. Sen. Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, that would allow the federal courts to review cases like Leal's where violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights is an issue.

"If Texas were to proceed with the scheduled execution of Mr. Leal ... there could be no dispute that that execution would be unlawful - specifically, in violation of treaty commitments validly made by the United States through constitutionally prescribed processes," Sandra Babcock, a Northwestern University law professor who is one of Leal's attorneys, said her appeal.

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