The State Department created this program in September 2000 to assist Mexican citizens facing the death penalty in the United States and better defend them from arrest to post-conviction trials, both in states where the death penalty is imposed and in federal courts. Since 2001, the program has included not only Mexicans who have already been sentenced to death, but also those facing charges that could lead to the death penalty. The Mexican government created the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program in 2000 to combat the imposition of the death penalty on its citizens by the United States.  The purpose of the program is to teach lawyers to humanize their clients and present a defence that would deter the jury from imposing the death penalty.  The program pays U.S. lawyers $220 per hour to prosecute death penalty cases involving Mexican nationals eligible for the death penalty.  The average budget for this program is $4 million, or $29,000 per case, compared to the U.S. budget of $1,000 for the preparation of out-of-court trials. The program also allows lawyers to travel to their clients` hometowns in Mexico to acquire stories and create a narrative that makes the jury more obligated to render a compassionate verdict. Sandra Babcock: The idea behind Mexico`s momentous legal aid program is to correct the inherently unequal position of Mexicans vis-à-vis American citizens [on death row]. The profile of the Mexican citizen who is in prison for a capital crime is someone who certainly did not graduate from high school, who has only a first-rate education, and who often has some form of neurological impairment due to pesticide exposure and head trauma. There is an exceptionally high incidence of head injuries among Mexican nationals who grew up in some rural areas of Mexico. Often, Mexican nationals accused of capital crimes do not speak English and are inherently more vulnerable than a U.S. citizen for all the reasons I have mentioned.
They don`t understand the legal system, they don`t trust their lawyers because most of their lawyers don`t speak Spanish. So you really need the help of the consulate to overcome all these barriers. MALDEF is the leading Latin American civil rights organization. Our commitment is to protect and defend the rights of all Latinos living in the United States and the constitutional rights of all Americans. There is also a lot of anger. I`m very angry most of the time. Especially when I come to Texas and see cases with incompetent lawyers who don`t seem to care. I am talking about defence lawyers. For prosecutors, that`s their job. I may not agree with that, but that is why they are here.
For a criminal lawyer, it is his job to defend his client. If a defense attorney abandons a client in a capital case, or simply writes a five-page habeas corpus petition – which happened in one of our cases – why don`t those lawyers simply divorce? Don`t do capital work, I say. If you`re incompetent and don`t want to work hard, don`t work with the death penalty. I think they really should have their licences revoked. It`s very, very frustrating and it makes me very lively to deal with lawyers like that. Incompetent doesn`t even begin to describe them. Article 36(1)(b) of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations has been the subject of controversy in the United States since its ratification in 1969. The interpretation of this particular section has been the subject of several Supreme Court decisions, the most effective of which are Breard v. Greene, Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon and Medellin v. Texas.
This ultimately led the Texas Supreme Court not to require respect for the International Court of Justice or President Bush`s memorandum to review the convictions of those who had been deprived of their rights under the Convention. Nevertheless, Mexico has begun to make progress in the struggle for the rights of its citizens with programs such as the Mexican Capital Legal Assistance Program. Earlier this year, Babcock made headlines to protest the execution of Mexican citizen Javier Suárez Medina in Texas. Suárez Medina was convicted in Dallas in 1988 for the death of undercover drug agent Lawrence Cadena. At the time of his arrest, the Dallas authorities did not inform him of his right to contact the Mexican consulate, a right guaranteed by article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations and the Optional Protocols, to which both Mexico and the United States are signatories. His lawyer later argued that his due process rights had been violated because he had never been informed of his right to contact the consulate. Police actions — not Suárez Medina`s fault — have become a point of conflict between Texas and Mexico. While the defense legal battle failed to save Suárez Medina`s life, Mexican President Vicente Fox canceled a state visit to Texas in protest.
In Oklahoma, Mexico`s capital legal aid program successfully repealed Gerardo Valdéz`s death sentence for violating article 36. Valdéz is now awaiting a new trial. There are currently 53 Mexican nationals on death row in the United States; 16 are in Texas. Some 140 Mexican nationals charged with capital murder are awaiting trial across the country. The cases of Mexican nationals are no different from all others. They are more isolated, they know less about the legal system, so in that sense they are different, but the quality of legal representation is poor in all areas. People talk about it all the time, but there`s little media game and nobody does anything about it. It amazes me that a state applying the death penalty can be so blasé about these really serious flaws in the system. I do not support the death penalty, but if I did, the morally appropriate attitude would be to ensure that it is applied fairly. Is it that difficult? Is that a controversial statement? It seems to me that this is not the case. The Mexican Capital Punishment Legal Aid Programme has had several successes. One such story is that of Angel Campos Nava and lawyer Rebecca Thomason, who was appointed to defend Campos Nava.
In this case, there were footage of Nava hitting and stabbing Lesley Hope Plott.  Thomason was hired to convince a jury in Alabama to sentence life imprisonment instead of the death penalty. Thomason was flown to Texas and California to train for the program.  There, she discovered that the court-appointed interpreter had used a dialect of Spanish that Nava could not understand.  In preparation for trial, the program took her to Nava`s hometown, where she discovered difficult life situations, including a drunk father and mother, who frequently beat him, making it clear why Nava « desperately wanted to leave. »  The mitigating evidence was presented to the victims` families and they agreed to support the prosecutor`s decision to serve a life sentence. SB: Mexico supports the criminal justice system in Texas and other states.