August 2, 2008

Legal fight goes on for Mexican citizen set to be executed

Aug. 02, 2008
The Associated Press

HOUSTON — Texas officials remained adamant that a convicted killer in a gruesome gang rape-slaying in Houston should be executed next week despite an international court’s ruling that he should be entitled to additional legal reviews because he’s a Mexican citizen.

Lawyers for Jose Medellin, four months after losing his case at the U.S. Supreme Court, returned to the high court Friday seeking a last-minute reprieve.

Medellin is set to die Tuesday in Huntsville for his participation in the 1993 gang rape and beating deaths of two Houston girls, Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16. Medellin’s lawyers want the justices to block his lethal injection until Texas grants him a new hearing to comply with a ruling from the International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court.

The state has so far refused.

"We don’t care where you’re from," Allison Castle, a spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, said Friday. "If you commit a despicable crime like this in Texas, you’ll face the ultimate penalty under our laws."

The Supreme Court ruled in March that neither President Bush nor the international court can force Texas’ hand.

"The truth is, Texas is not bound by a foreign court’s ruling," Castle said.

Medellin says Congress or the Texas Legislature, which doesn’t meet again until January, should be given a chance to pass a law ordering a new hearing before he can be executed.

Four Democratic lawmakers have introduced such a bill in Congress, but it probably won’t be acted upon this year.

Medellin is one of about 50 Mexicans on death rows around the nation, including about a dozen in Texas, who say that they were denied prompt access to their country’s consular officials after being arrested in the United States. The access is guaranteed by international treaty.

On Thursday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, rejected similar arguments from Medellin, who was 18 when the two girls were killed.

In a concurring opinion to the court’s ruling, Judge Cathy Cochran said Medellin, who was brought to the United States when he was 3, indeed was a Mexican citizen. But she said he had lived in the U.S. for 15 of his 18 years and spoke fluent English while he never obtained or sought American citizenship.

"His claim is that no one informed him of his right to contact the Mexican consulate," she wrote. "This is true. It also is true that he was never denied access to the Mexican consulate.

"The problem is that he apparently never told any law enforcement or judicial official that he was a Mexican citizen until some four years after his conviction."

Cochran said while Texas authorities "clearly failed in their duty" to inform Medellin of his rights under the Vienna Convention, "this foreign national equally failed in his duty to inform those authorities that he was a Mexican citizen."

In 2004, the World Court said the prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether the absence of contact with consular officials affected the cases. Bush, while saying he disagreed with the ruling, nevertheless said the United States was obligated by treaty to comply with it and ordered the states to follow suit.

Texas refused, which is how Medellin’s case initially ended up before the Supreme Court

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