Texas executes Mexican-born killer despite international appeals

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Late Tuesday, authorities in the U.S. state of Texas carried out the execution of José Medellín, a Mexican national convicted of raping and murdering two teenage girls in 1993. The execution was carried out despite being at the center of an international legal dispute with objections from the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

José Ernesto Medellín, 33, was born in Mexico but moved to the U.S. as a child. He was sentenced to death for the 1993 rape and murder of two girls aged 14 and 16 in Houston, Texas. On Tuesday at 9:57 p.m. CDT, he was given a lethal injection at the Huntsville Unit in Huntsville, according to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice.

In 2004, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague told US authorities that Medellín's case and other cases of Mexicans facing execution in the U.S. may have constituted a violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Medellín's attorneys had argued that Medellín was not informed of his right to seek legal assistance from the Mexican consulate after his arrest. The United States withdrew from compulsory ICJ jurisdiction in 1986, and therefore accepts the court's jurisdiction only on a case-to-case discretionary basis.

The ICJ ordered a delay in the execution, as well as new hearings for Medellín and 50 other Mexican inmates, to determine if the Vienna Convention was violated in their arrests. President George W. Bush then ordered Texas to comply with the ICJ's ruling. However, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that the Bush administration did not have the authority to intervene in the case.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the United States to "take every step" to stop the execution. "All decisions and orders of the International Court of Justice must be respected by states," he said in Mexico City on Tuesday, less than 12 hours before the execution took place.

Texas governor Rick Perry denied requests from both Mexican and American officials to delay the execution, citing the manner in which the victims were raped and strangled as justification for the death penalty. "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 José Medellín a 30-day reprieve," Perry said.

Medellín's attorneys appealed to the Supreme Court to delay the execution until Congress had an opportunity to pass legislation that would require new hearings for Medellín and other inmates. Shortly before Medellín's execution Tuesday night, the Supreme Court denied the final request for a reprieve with a 5-4 vote.

The Mexican government, which opposes the death penalty, has sent a letter of protest to the U.S. State Department, expressing concern for "the precedent that [the execution] may create for the rights of Mexican nationals who may be detained" in the United States.