Texas Defies World Court, Bush on Execution

AP, August 3, 2008

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International attention has been focused on the execution of convicted killer Jose Medellin scheduled for Tuesday. The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, said the Mexican-born Medellin and some 50 other Mexicans on death row around the nation should have new hearings in U.S. courts to determine whether a 1963 treaty was violated during their arrests.

Medellin, now 33, is the first among the 50 who is set to die.

His attorneys contend Medellin was denied the protections of the Vienna Convention, which calls for people arrested to have access to their home country’s consular officials. He has been in the United States since the age of 3.

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President Bush has asked states to review the cases. Texas has refused to budge.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico warned of possible protests there Tuesday.

Medellin’s lawyers went to the Supreme Court after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, refused to stop the lethal injection. The justices ruled in March that neither the President nor the international court can force Texas’ hand.

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Texas officials acknowledge that Medellin was not told he could ask for help from Mexican diplomats but argued he forfeited the right because he never raised the issue until four years after his conviction. In any case, the diplomats’ intercession wouldn’t have made any difference in the outcome of the case, they said.

Medellin speaks, reads and writes English and gave a written confession.

“Don’t feel sorry for me,” he said on an anti-death penalty Web site where inmates seek pen pals. “I’m where I’m at because I made an adolescent choice.”

Medellin, on death row for almost 14 years, was one of six teenagers arrested and charged with the gang rape and murders of Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14. The two Houston girls, returning from a friend’s house, took a shortcut home and stumbled on a group of teenagers drinking beer after initiating a new gang member.

Evidence showed the girls were gang raped for more than an hour, then were kicked, beaten and strangled. Their bodies were found four days later.

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Mexico, which has no death penalty, initially sued the United States in the World Court in 2003. Mexico and other opponents of capital punishment have sought to use the court to fight for foreigners facing execution in the U.S.

“The law is clear: Texas is bound not by the World Court, but by the U.S. Supreme Court, which reviewed this matter and determined that this convicted murderer’s execution shall proceed,” said Jerry Strickland, a spokesman for the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

If executed, Medellin would be the 410th condemned prisoner to die in Texas since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982, far more than any other state. At least six other Mexican nationals are in that total.

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