(CBS/AP) HUNTSVILLE, Texas - The planned execution Thursday of a Mexican national has prompted a flurry of appeals on his behalf, including a rare plea from the White House, because of what it could mean for other foreigners arrested in the U.S. and for Americans detained in other countries.
Humberto Leal, 38, is awaiting a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court on whether to block his lethal injection in Huntsville. He was sentenced to die for the 1994 rape and murder of 16-year-old Adria Sauceda of San Antonio.
The appeal contends that authorities never told Leal after his arrest that he could seek legal assistance from the Mexican government under an international treaty, and that such assistance would have aided his defense. Leal moved to the U.S. as a toddler.
Leal's attorneys have support from the White House, the Mexican government and other diplomats who believe the execution should be delayed so his case can be thoroughly reviewed.
"There can be little doubt that if the government of Mexico had been allowed access to Mr. Leal in a timely manner, he would not now be facing execution for a capital murder he did not commit," Leal's attorneys told the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles in a clemency request rejected Tuesday. "Unfortunately, Mexico's assistance came too late to affect the result of Mr. Leal's capital murder prosecution."
President Barack Obama's administration took the unusual step of intervening in a state murder case when it asked the Supreme Court last week to delay Leal's execution for up to six months. The U.S. solicitor general told the court that Congress needed time to consider legislation that would allow federal courts to review cases of condemned foreign nationals to determine if the lack of consular help made a significant difference in the outcome of their cases.