August 5, 2008

Medellin executed amid controversy

Posted: Aug 5, 2008 11:23 PM CDT

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (CNN/KXAN) -- Jose Ernesto Medellin has been executed by lethal injection, according to Texas prison officials. Corrections spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said Medellin died at 9:57 CT.

The U.S. Supreme Court denied the last-ditch appeal of a Mexican national on Texas' death row late Tuesday, paving the way for him to be executed for a pair of brutal slayings, state corrections officials said.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said about 9:15 p.m. that the court had turned down the appeal of Jose Ernesto Medellin. At 9:48 p.m. Governor Perry released a statement, "After reviewing all of the facts in what is the most gruesome death penalty case I have reviewed since being in office, I have decided not to grant Jose Medellin a 30-day reprieve."

Medellin's capital appeal was an unusual one that pitted President Bush against his home state in a dispute over federal authority, local sovereignty and foreign treaties. At issue is an international court's ruling that Medellin and about 50 other Mexicans have been illegally denied access to their home country's consul. Allowing travelers such access when they are arrested abroad is common practice.

"Today the United States has stumbled in its commitment to the rule of law," said Donald Francis Donovan of Debevoise & Plimpton LLP, counsel to Medellín. "With this action, our nation has broken a commitment willingly made by our President and our Senate when we agreed to this treaty. We must now hope that other nations stand stronger in their promises than we do, lest our own citizens be placed at risk elsewhere."

Medellín was one of 51 Mexican nationals who did not receive consular access at the time of arrest as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, a treaty ratified by the United States, ensures the rights of foreign nationals to be notified of their right to consular access without delay and guarantees that consulates can assist their citizens abroad.

Congress has begun the process of enacting legislation. On July 14th, Members of the U.S. House of Representatives introduced H.R. 6481, the "Avena Case Implementation Act of 2008" in order to implement the ICJ's Avena judgment. This legislation empowers the federal courts to hear the Vienna Convention claims of foreign nationals who were not advised of their consular rights, including the Mexican nationals named in the Avena judgment. The legislation has been referred to the House Judiciary Committee for consideration, and can be taken up when Congress returns to Washington after its August recess.

The Bush White House typically backs states in their power to carry out executions, but Justice Department officials said that in these instances, the president's power to conduct foreign policy outweighed states' interests. The Supreme Court originally heard the Medellin case in 2005 but did not rule on the merits. It waited instead for lower courts to resolve the federalism angle before rehearing the appeal in October.

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