Foreign Nationals and the Death Penalty in the US

Updated May 20, 2019

Information provided by Mark Warren of Human Rights Research

Background: Consular Rights, Foreign Nationals and the Death Penalty

Reported Foreign Nationals on Death Row in the U.S.

by foreign nationality
by state of confinement


Dual nationality
Sources of Information

Foreign Nationals Executed Since 1976

Foreign Nationals with Scheduled Execution Dates

Deaths in Custody

Foreign Nationals Released on Grounds of Innocence

Executive Clemency for Death-Sentenced Foreign Nationals

Noteworthy Court Decisions

News and Developments - Current Year (updated by DPIC)

News and Developments - Previous Years (by Mark Warren and DPIC)

2018 2017 2016 2015 2014 2013  2012   2011   2010   2009   2008   2007   2006  2005

Consular Rights, Foreign Nationals and the Death Penalty

Under Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR), local authorities must inform all detained foreigners "without delay" of their right to have their consulate notified of their detention and to communicate with their consular representatives. At the request of the national, the authorities must then notify the consulate of the detention without delay; they must also facilitate consular communication and grant consular access to the detainee. Consuls are empowered to arrange for their nationals' legal representation and to provide a wide range of humanitarian and other assistance, with the consent of the detainee. Local laws and regulations must give "full effect" to the rights enshrined in Article 36. The USA ratified the VCCR without reservations in 1969; so fundamental is the right to consular notification and access that the U.S. Department of State considers it to be required under customary international law in all cases, even if the detainee's home country has not signed the VCCR. As of February 9, 2009, 172 countries were parties to the VCCR. 

In March of 2004, the International Court of Justice determined in the Avena case (Mexico v. USA) that advisement of consular rights "without delay" means "a duty upon the arresting authorities to give that information to an arrested person as soon as it is realized that the person is a foreign national, or once there are grounds to think that the person is probably a foreign national." In most cases, police in the United States would become aware of a suspect's probable nationality through routine identity confirmation and background checks, done either during the initial investigation, upon arrest, or very shortly thereafter. The State Department has interpreted the term "without delay" to mean as soon as practicable (i.e., without undue delay) and normally by the time the detainee is booked for detention. While not all of the reported foreign nationals currently on death row were deprived of their consular rights by arresting authorities, there is overwhelming evidence that prompt notification of these rights remains highly sporadic across the United States. No comparative study has yet been done, but the available data indicates that timely consular assistance significantly reduces the likelihood that death sentences will be sought or imposed on foreign nationals facing capital charges.

Even applying the less stringent definition of prompt notification used by the State Department, only 7 cases of complete compliance with Article 36 requirements have been identified so far, out of more than 160 total reported death sentences (including those executed, reversed on appeal or exonerated and released). In most of the remaining cases, detained nationals learned of their consular rights weeks, months or even years after their arrest, typically from attorneys or other prisoners and not from the local authorities. As a consequence, consular officials were often unable to provide crucial assistance to their nationals when it would be most beneficial: at the arrest and pre-trial stage of capital cases. For example, Arizona authorities did not formally inform German nationals Karl and Walter LaGrand of their Article 36 rights until 17 years after their arrest-- and just weeks before their execution.

Although not a capital case, evidence from a lawsuit indicates the extent to which police departments in the USA may have breached their consular notification obligations. In Sorensen v. City of New York , a Danish national sought punitive and compensatory damages for the failure of the NYPD to inform her upon arrest in 1997 of her right to consular notification. Official records produced by the plaintiff revealed that over 53,000 foreign nationals were arrested in New York City during 1997, but that the NYPD Alien Notification Log registered only 4 cases in which consulates were notified of those arrests--a failure rate well in excess of 99 per cent (even presuming that a majority of the detainees might have declined consular notification). Another example is the recent finding by the International Court of Justice in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals that the United States had violated its Article 36 obligations in 51 of 52 reviewed cases of Mexican nationals resulting in death sentences (a 98% failure rate, in the most serious of all possible circumstances).

Research to date indicates that a large majority of death-sentenced foreign nationals were lawfully present in the United States and were thus not "illegal aliens." For example, of the 54 Mexican nationals whose cases were initially brought before the International Court of Justice in Avena, only 5 were alleged by the United States to have entered the country illegally at any time prior to their arrest on the charges resulting in their death sentences.

Reported Foreign Nationals Under Sentence of Death in the U.S.

TOTAL: 128   As of May 20, 2019

By foreign nationality:


















El Salvador


Costa Rica






















Dominican Republic


















St. Kitts and Nevis / UK










Mexico (2 sentence reversed on appeal) 2
Trinidad (overturned under Hurst v. Florida) 2
Bahamas (overturned under Hurst v. Florida) 1
Estonia (sentenced reversed on appeal) 1
Jamaica (overturned under Hurst v. Florida) 1
Vietnam (overturned under Hurst v. Florida) 1

By State of Confinement:

TOTALS BY JURISDICTION: All State Jurisdictions (124); All Federal Jurisdictions (4) — California (60), Florida (18), Texas (19), Pennsylvania (6), Nevada (5), Arizona (3), Ohio (2), Louisiana (3), Alabama (1), Georgia (2), Oregon (2), Montana (1), Mississippi (1), Nebraska (1).

Totals include all reported foreign nationals under sentence of death, including those awaiting new sentencing hearings and cases in which the individual's nationality is disputed. Confirmed cases of dual citizenship (individuals possessing both U.S. citizenship and that of another country) are not listed. For more information, see dual nationality below.


List of symbols in tables below

  • foreign nationality independently confirmed
  • Female
  • facing possible execution in the near future
  • awaiting re-sentencing or new trial after appellate court ruling
  • awaiting formal sentencing by trial court
  • cases in which a violation of consular rights has been raised in court proceedings or otherwise directly reported.
  • cases in which notification of consular rights was reportedly provided by authorities without delay (i.e. upon arrest, or prior to booking for detention).
  • cases in which a consular rights violation is disputed
  • Iclaim of innocence raised on appeal (incomplete data)
  • Mcases of reported mental illness, intellectual disability or brain damage (incomplete data)
  • Dinmate with INS detention number, but for whom no nationality has been specified
  • ?cases of possible dual nationality
State Name Notes Country of
Mohammad Sharifi   Iran  
Fabio Evelio Gomez   Dominican Republic  
Michael Apelt M Germany
Joel Escalante Orozco Mexico
Run Peter Chhoun   Cambodia  
Mao Hin   Cambodia  
Samreth Sam Pan   Cambodia  
Charles Ng   China (Hong Kong)  
Manuel Machado Alvarez   Cuba  
John Ghobrial   Egypt  
Julian Beltran El Salvador  
Irving Ramirez El Salvador  
Tauno Waidla Estonia
Jose Francisco Guerra M Guatemala  
Cristhian Antonio Monterroso   Guatemala  
Cristian Tomas Perez   Guatemala  
Osman Alex Canales   Honduras  
Johnny Morales Honduras  
Edgardo Fuentes Sánchez   Honduras  
Hooman Ashkan Panah Iran
Ka Pasasouk   Laos  
Vaene Sivongxxay   Laos
Santiago Martinez Alonso Mexico
Ignacio Tafoya Arriola Mexico
Eduardo David Vargas Barocio Mexico
Marcos Esquivel Barrera Mexico
Ramon Salcido Bojorquez Mexico
Luis Enrique Monrroy Bracamontes   Mexico
Miguel Enrique Felix Burgos   Mexico  
Jose Lupercio Casares Mexico
Tomas Verano Cruz Mexico
Pedro Espinosa Davila   Mexico
Enrique Parra Duenas Mexico
Jose Luis Leon Elias Mexico
Martin Mendoza Garcia Mexico
Adrian Camacho Gil Mexico
Victor Miranda Guerrero Mexico
Carlos Avena Guillen Mexico
Juan Manuel Lopez Hernandez Mexico
Luis Alberto Maciel Hernandez Mexico
Santiago Pineda Hernandez Mexico
Jaime Armando Hoyos Mexico
Abelino Manriquez Jacquez Mexico
Samuel Zamudio Jimenez Mexico
Jorge Contreras Lopez I Mexico
Omar Fuentes Martinez Mexico
Hector Juan Ayala Medrano Mexico
Carlos Martinez Mendivil Mexico
Huber Joel Mendoza Novoa M Mexico
Francisco Beltran Meza   Mexico
Magdaleno Salazar Nava Mexico
Ruben Gomez Perez Mexico
Juan Sanchez Ramirez I Mexico
Alfredo Valdez Reyes Mexico
Victor Manuel Rojas (Daniel Cervantes) Mexico  
Alfredo Valencia Salazar Mexico
Arturo Juarez Suarez Mexico
Sergio Ochoa Tamayo  M Mexico
Jesus Penuelas Velasquez Mexico  
Juan de Dios Ramirez Villa Mexico
Sonny Enraca Philippines
Hung Thanh Mai   Viet Nam  
Lam Nguyen   Viet Nam  
Dung Anh Trinh   Viet Nam  
Dolan Darling ⚠☀ Bahamas
Ian Lightbourn   Bahamas  
Guillermo Arbelaez M Colombia  
Rory Enrique Conde   Colombia  
Terance Valentine   Costa Rica  
Omar Blanco   Cuba  
Ana Maria Cardona Cuba
Jesus Delgado   Cuba  
Leonardo Franqui   Cuba  
Pablo San Martin   Cuba  
Marbel Mendoza   Cuba  
Manolo Rodriguez   Cuba  
Lancelot Armstrong Jamaica
Robert Gordon   Jamaica  
Dane Abdool ? Trinidad  
Noel Doorbal Trinidad  
Tai A. Pham Viet Nam  
Joaquin Arevalo El Salvador  
Pablo Maldonado Zequeida   Mexico
Manuel Ortiz I El Salvador
Michael LeGrand ? France  
Thao Tan Lam   Viet Nam  
Mississippi (1) Thong Le   Viet Nam  
Montana (1) Ronald Smith Canada
Nebraska (1) Jorge Galindo Espriella Mexico
Avetis Archanian   Armenia  
Carlos Rene Perez Gutierrez ⚠☀ Mexico
Ralph Simon Jeremias   Philippines  
Avram Vineto Nika Serbia
Sioasi Vanisi   Tonga  
Abdul Awkal M Lebanon
Jose Trinidad Loza Ventura Mexico
Horacio Alberto Reyes Camarena  M Mexico
Ricardo Serrano Piñeda Mexico
Thavirak Sam M Cambodia  
Borgela Philistin   Haiti  
Albert Reid   Jamaica
Miguel Padilla Lozano Mexico
Cam Ly Vietnam  
Tam Minh Le   Vietnam
Victor Saldano Argentina
Syed Rabbani   Bangladesh
Obel Cruz Garcia   Dominican Republic  
Gilmar Alexander Guevara   El Salvador
Hector Medina Romero El Salvador  
Walter Alexander Sorto El Salvador  
Dennis Zelaya Corea (Carlos Ayestas) Honduras
Edgardo Cubas Honduras  
Juan Carlos Alvarez Banda Mexico
Areli Escobar Carbajal   Mexico
Cesar Roberto Fierro Reyna  I M Mexico
Ignacio Gomez  M Mexico
Ramiro Ibarra Rubi Mexico
Juan Lizcano Ruiz M Mexico
Felix Rocha Diaz Mexico
Luis Tijerina Sandoval   Mexico
Bernardo Tercero   Nicaragua
Linda Carty   St. Kitts/ UK
Chuong Duong Tong   Viet Nam  
Robert Bolden  ? Canada
Alejandro Umana   El Salvador  
Jurijus Kadamovas Lithuania  
Iouri Mikhel   Russia  


Solely for the purposes of this list, a "foreign national" is any individual under sentence of death in the USA who does not possess U.S. citizenship. More generally, foreign nationals in the United States would include: tourists and visitors, migrant workers with temporary permits, resident aliens, undocumented aliens, asylum-seekers, and persons in transit. Foreign citizens comprise a significant portion of the population: more than 60 million foreigners visit the United States annually from overseas and approximately 22 million U.S residents are non-citizens (according to the 2012 data from the U.S. Census Bureau).

Along with the general consular notification obligations that apply under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the USA has also negotiated separate bilateral consular agreements applicable to some 50 countries. Under the terms of most of these agreements, there is a mandatory obligation to promptly notify the consulate of an arrest irrespective of the national's wishes (typically within a specified time period, such as 72 hours following the detention).

Dual nationality

Individuals retaining dual nationality who are arrested in one of their countries of citizenship are problematic for the purposes of consular notification under the VCCR (which makes no reference to dual citizenship). Individuals are listed provisionally if a report is received that they possess citizenship in a country other than the USA; if U.S. citizenship is later confirmed, the name is removed from this list.

The U.S. Department of State has taken the position that individuals who retain U.S. citizenship along with another nationality are not entitled to notification of consular rights if arrested in the USA. At a minimum, however, foreign consulates in the United States retain the right to communicate with and visit their citizens in custody, irrespective of dual nationality. Many countries have asserted a right to provide consular protection to dual nationals arrested in their other country of citizenship, particularly in life-threatening situations and denial of consular notification to dual nationals may deny the accused access to consular assistance in investigating and preparing his or her guilt or penalty defenses. While the scope of consular rights for this category of dual nationals may be open to some interpretation, all non-U.S. citizens detained or arrested in the USA are unquestionably entitled to the full range of consular rights afforded under international law.

Sources of Information

Since U.S. authorities do not always accurately list or report incarcerated individuals by nationality, it is difficult to identify and verify all foreign nationals under sentence of death. For instance, a recent U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey noted that a reported 95,977 noncitizens were held in custody at midyear 2010, but also indicated that the criteria used to determine foreign nationality varied widely by state. There is no accessible national registry of death-sentenced foreigners (although the USCIS data base of deportable aliens serving prison terms would likely include all known foreign nationals on death row nationwide). Compounding the problem is the still-widespread failure of U.S. law enforcement officials to notify detained foreigners of their consular rights. Without this notification and subsequent communication at the request of the detained national, foreign consulates in the United States are likely to remain unaware of the true number of their nationals who are imprisoned, let alone sentenced to death.

The information for this list comes from a variety of sources, including appellate attorneys, post-conviction resource centers, trial counsel, prosecutors, newspaper articles, journalists, consulates, and prison officials.

Research to date indicates that there are no foreign nationals currently on death row in South Carolina. There is as yet no complete data from a number of U.S. states with significant death row populations, including Georgia, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee. A comprehensive list would likely include some 145 names (i.e., roughly 5% of the total U.S. death row population).

A name is included on the list if it is confirmed by at least one reliable contact. The eventual goal is to verify the nationalities of all individuals on this list from two or more independent sources. At present, approximately three-quarters of the names have been corroborated by multiple independent sources.

I welcome any and all additional information on this subject.

Mark Warren, Human Rights Research
tel: (613) 256-8308

Human Rights Research provides information on consular rights issues in death penalty cases, along with international legal consulting and research services to attorneys, consulates and non-governmental organizations.