The clock is ticking

    It’s shaping up to be another Death Day in Texas, where prospective Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry seems poised to OK his seventh execution of the year. Indeed, given his nascent White House aspirations, it’s hard to believe that he would grant a last-second reprieve to the inmate who is slated to die at day’s end.If Perry does decide today to confound expectations and stay the state-sanctioned slaying of Humberto Leal Garcia, then fine, I’d be happy to be wrong. But it appears that, from Perry’s perspective, offing Garcia would be very good politics. Just take a look at some of the players who want Garcia to remain alive: The State Department, the International Court of Justice (a judicial arm of the United Nations), various U.S. diplomats, the Mexican ambassador to the U.S., and the U.S. Solicitor General (pleading at the behest of President Obama). How could a conservative Texas governor possibly resist the opportunity to thumb his nose at all those wusses?If Perry opts to run for president (and the evidence continues to suggest he will), his first task would be to woo the conservative primary season voters. And if there’s one thing those voters don’t like, it’s the notion that foreigners would dare tell Americans what to do. And since the international community has been pleading with Perry to stay Garcia’s execution, killing Garcia today would be a handy way to say that the U.S.A. doesn’t cotton to foreigners, that we’re still Number One.Here’s the problem (which I briefly mentioned here on June 29): Garcia is not an American citizen. He’s a Mexican national who, at the time of his arrest and prosecution on rape and murder charges, was denied certain fundamental rights by the Texas authorities. Under the provisions of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations – a pact signed by the U.S., Mexico, and 171 other nations – Garcia had the right to contact the Mexican consulate, which could have helped him navigate the Texas criminal justice system by providing him with expert defense lawyers. but Garcia was never informed of this. Instead, he got the usual mediocre lawyers appointed by the state.Sandra Babcock, a legal expert who’s currently trying to save Garcia from death, told ABC News yesterday: “The violation of the Vienna Convention…was no mere technicality. The Mexican consulate would have provided experienced and highly qualified attorneys who would have challenged the prosecution’s reliance on junk science to obtain a conviction and would have presented powerful mitigating evidence at the penalty phase, including expert testimony regarding (Garcia’s) learning disabilities, brain damage, and sexual abuse at the hands of his parish priest.”Many of you may well dismiss those comments as classic bleeding-heart drivel, and think nary a thought about the fate of a Mexican guy who was convicted of killing a teenage girl. Hey, who cares about some candyass treaty procedures? Why should we even care that the International Court of Justice rebuked us in 2004, declaring in a ruling that we Americans should comply with the terms of the international pact that we signed? (At the time of that ruling, 50 Mexican citizens had been sentenced to death by American courts without having been informed of their consular rights.)Certainly, Perry doesn’t care. If nothing else, it’s good Republican politics to tell foreigners to take a hike. As Perry’s press secretary stated the other day, “Texas is not bound by a foreign court’s ruling.”But since what we care about most is our own self-interest, here’s the reason we should watch the Garcia case: If we keep refusing to abide by the terms of the pact that we signed, why shouldn’t other signing nations refuse to do the same? If some traveling Americans are charged with crimes abroad, or held there for specious reasons, why should those signing nations – mindful of our repeated pact violations – agree to provide detained Americans with access to U.S. consulates?As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrote recently, abiding by the terms of the Vienna agreement are of “fundamental importance to our ability to protect Americans overseas, and preserve some of our most vital international relationships…The U.S. is best positioned to demand that foreign governments respect consular rights with respect to U.S. citizens abroad when we comply with these same obligations for foreign nationals in the United States.”Various diplomats and State Department officials wrote to Perry, pleading in vain that he at least delay Garcia’s execution until Congress passes a law requiring states to comply with the Vienna agreement. The Solicitor General, as directed by Obama, has also asked the U.S. Supreme Court to immediately grant a six-month reprieve, so that Congress can act. (The high court has only a few more hours to decide. Conceivably, it could let Perry off the hook. Any bets that it will?)All told, Garcia’s demise would serve Perry politically. The clock is ticking today. He can buttress his conservative creds by demonstrating that he’s more right-wing than Iran. (I kid you not. In 2009, when Iran detained some American hikers, it informed the hikers of their consular rights and allowed them to contact the U.S. consulate.) Moreover, Perry can demonstrate to conservatives that he’s more conservative than George W. Bush. (President Bush agreed with that ’04 International Court ruling, and said that Mexican inmates nationwide should get new U.S. court hearings, in order to determine whether their consular rights were violated at the time of arrest.)But red meat aside (Texas 1, Foreigners 0!), this case goes way beyond Garcia. The core questions: Should America be compelled to abide by its international obligations, or not? And if some fellow American – say, one of your kids – was detained or arrested by foreign authorities, wouldn’t you want that nation to behave better than Rick Perry’s Texas?——-Speaking of Perry, you may have heard about his impending plans to erase the line that separates church and state, by staging an event that virtually promotes one strain of Christianity over all other denominations and faiths. I detailed it today, in a newspaper column.

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