Death Row Inmate Gets More Support

By Michelle Mondo
San Antonio Express-News
June 10, 2011

The list of those calling for Texas to stay the July execution of Humberto Leal Jr. grew on Friday when the Franciscan Order and organizations representing victims of sexual abuse by priests sent letters to the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole.

The letters from the abuse-victims organizations, including the San Antonio chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, and the Franciscans call for a stay or commutation of Leal's sentence so the Catholic Church can investigate the allegations he made against Father Federico Fernandez.

The allegation by Leal, 38, that Fernandez sexually abused him when he was 10 or 11 and attending St. Clare's Catholic Church was made for the first time in a recent petition for a reprieve or commutation Leal's attorney sent to the board and Gov. Rick Perry.

Leal was sentenced to die for the rape and bludgeoning death of Adria Sauceda, 16, whose naked body was found on May 21, 1994, on a dirt road not far from a party that she and Leal both attended. The execution is scheduled for July 7.

Franciscan Provincial Minister William Spencer said in a letter that he needed to add his voice to those calling for a reprieve because, he said, the sex-abuse claim could have merit. A spokesman for the San Antonio Archdiocese has said Leal's allegation would be investigated.

Fernandez, a San Antonio priest, was charged in 1988 with molesting two young boys but the charges were later dropped and a lawsuit was settled out of court.

Leal was one of 51 Mexican nationals on death row nationwide that an international court determined in 2004 had their rights violated by not being told they could talk to Mexican consular representatives at the time of arrest.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague said the remedy for that violation was to hold hearings to determine if consular access would have made a difference in trials of the condemned, but the U.S. Supreme Court in 2008 rejected an order for those hearings by then-President George W. Bush, saying only Congress could require them.

Sandra Babcock, Leal's Chicago-based attorney with the Northwestern University School of Law, said such legislation is in the works and her client should get a reprieve so he can have his hearing if Congress approves it. Her petition was accompanied by letters calling for a stay by high ranking members of the U.S. government, military and judiciary.



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