Texas defies World Court with execution
DALLAS – Texas defied the World Court and executed a Mexican national by lethal injection on Tuesday over the objections of the international judicial body and neighboring Mexico.
Jose Medellin, 33, was pronounced dead at 9:57 p.m. CDT in the state’s death chamber in Huntsville, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.
He had been condemned for the 1993 rape and murder of 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena in Houston and lost his bid late Tuesday for a last-minute stay from the U.S. Supreme Court.
The World Court last month ordered the U.S. government to “take all measures necessary” to halt the upcoming executions of five Mexicans including Medellin’s on the grounds that they had been deprived of their right to consular services after their arrests.
Medellin’s execution is sure to anger neighboring Mexico and analysts have said it could make life rough for Americans arrested abroad if other countries decide to evoke the U.S. example and deprive them of their right to consular services.
This typically means diplomats will visit and provide legal advice to their nationals being held by authorities.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles had recommended that the state’s Republican governor Rick Perry not grant a temporary reprieve, paving the way for Medellin’s execution.
Texas, which executes far more convicts than any other U.S. state, had taken the view that the brutal nature of Medellin’s crimes rendered him unfit for a reprieve or lesser sentence.
The World Court’s jurisdiction also does not reach Texas, a state where authorities generally don’t like outsiders telling them what to do.
The political fall-out from the Medellin and related cases has reached the White House and the U.S. Supreme Court.
U.S. President George W. Bush directed his native Texas to comply with a World Court ruling in 2004 mandating review of the cases of Medellin and other Mexicans in U.S. prisons awaiting execution. The U.S. Supreme Court said in March Bush’s action had exceeded his authority.
The government of Mexico sent the U.S. State Department a diplomatic note of protest, expressing “its concern for the precedent” that the case “may create for the rights of Mexican nationals who may be detained in that country.”
The June 1993 crime for which Medellin was condemned was chilling. According to the Texas Attorney General’s office, Pena and her 14-year-old companion, Jennifer Ertman, were walking home when they encountered a gang initiation.
Medellin and his fellow gang members sexually assaulted, beat and strangled the two girls. When their badly decomposed bodies were finally recovered, they could only be identified by dental records. Medellin was only convicted of Pena’s murder.
Speaking to Reuters in the Mexican border town of Nuevo Laredo, Medellin’s aunt Reyna Armendariz, 45, said:
“He was a normal, happy kid … They don’t have the right to take his life away, we acknowledged that he committed a crime but make him pay with a life sentence,” she said.
In his last statement Medellin said: “I am sorry my actions caused pain.” He had no last meal request, which is a ritual of U.S. executions. Medellin was the fifth inmate executed in Texas so far this year and the 410th put to death since 1982, when the state resumed executions six years after the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment. Texas currently has 14 more executions scheduled for this year and one early in 2009. Seventeen executions have now been carried out in the United States since the Supreme Court in April lifted an unofficial moratorium on the death penalty when it rejected a challenge to the three-drug cocktail used in most lethal injections.