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30 April 2007

Texas defends its shortcut to executing a Mexican citizen

No matter how good an imagination you have, it's pretty hard to put yourself into Jose Medellin's situation -- a convicted murderer on Texas' death row. "This could never happen to me" comes to mind.

This strange story might jump-start your imagination. This college-educated middle-class teenage girl from Sweden went backpacking to see her world and ended up in a variety of East African dungeons. International diplomacy played a part in returning her home safely, but she'd innocently bumbled into crap so deep that she owes her rescue more to Miracles and Magic than diplomacy.

The states of my part of the USA -- New England -- chose decades ago to stop executing human beings, but some states like Florida and Texas have evolved a very different politic in which executions are wildly popular vote candy, and no politician who opposes or tries to end capital punishment can hope to rise to power in Texas or Florida these days. The last time I checked, something around 85 percent of Texas voters favor keeping capital punishment.

"The Rule Of Law" gets talked about a lot these days. What the local laws are isn't too important. What's important is that every person gets the benefits of all the local laws that apply to his or her situation. The government and most of its citizens may be very angry at someone in its dungeon, but The Rule Of Law forbids the government from taking shortcuts, or ignoring its own laws, in deciding what to do with the dungeon resident.

As Texas was speeding Jose Medellin through its Execution Assembly Line, the authorities skipped a step. Medellin is a citizen of Mexico. And the USA is a signator to an international treaty that guarantees that every foreigner accused of a crime and tossed into a US dungeon has a right to promptly see a consular representative of his own government.

Part of Texas' argument in the Medellin appeals has been that the state of Texas is NOT a signator of these international treaties, and so never had an obligation to tell Medellin that he was entitled to a visit from the Mexican consul.

If ever there was a US president who wanted to enable the savage vote candy of Texas, and wanted to tell an international treaty that recognizes rights for accused Mexicans to go fuck itself, it is former Texas Governor George W. Bush. Part of how he got where he is today directly involves his demonstrated enthusiasm for Texas' Death Row.

But apparently this is one of the very rare international and human-rights controversies during the Bush presidency where the federal government feels obliged to take the side of the foreign guy in the dungeon, and oppose Texas' efforts to snuff him.

During the heyday of the Roman Empire, you could be anywhere in a vast swath of Eurasia or Africa, and if you got into a really nasty, dangerous jam, all you had to say was "Civis Romanus sum" -- "I am a Roman Citizen" -- and suddenly the local lynch mob backed off. US citizenship is very similar. For about two centuries, the USA has spread the word to everybody on the planet that if they fuck with an American citizen, the consequences could involve prompt naval or aerial bombardment, all the way up to Regime Change.

An American abroad can still get into Deep Shit -- he can commit nasty crimes, face local laws, and even be put to death -- but US diplomats hover to make sure every US citizen is treated in accord with the Rule Of Law, and gets every right and protection local law promises. We're very quick to point to this international treaty to demand the American get all his rights.

Now the Supreme Court has to decide if the treaty works in both directions. Does "Civis Mexicanus sum" have any force or meaning in a Texas dungeon? Or is Texas a sovereign nation within a sovereign nation, and under no obligation to recognize any pact the US federal government has signed with the world's other sovereign nations?


Monday 30 April 2007

U.S. court to decide
case of Mexican
on death row

by James Vicini

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- The U.S. Supreme Court said on Monday it would decide whether President George W. Bush had the authority to direct a state court to comply with an international tribunal's ruling in the case of a Mexican on death row in Texas.

The justices agreed to review a decision by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that concluded Bush had exceeded his constitutional authority by intruding into the independent powers of the judiciary.

The case involved Jose Medellin, who was denied the right to meet with a consular officer from Mexico after his arrest for murder.

The World Court in The Hague in 2004 ordered the United States to review the cases of Medellin and 50 other Mexican death row inmates because U.S. officials failed to tell them of their right under the Vienna Convention to talk to consular officers immediately after their arrests.

Bush in 2005 decided to comply with the World Court's ruling and he directed state courts to review the 51 cases to determine whether the violation of their rights caused the defendants any harm at trial or at sentencing.

Bush's action caused the Supreme Court to dismiss an earlier appeal by Medellin without deciding the merits of the dispute and to send the case back to the Texas courts.

After losing before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, Medellin's attorneys again appealed to the Supreme Court. They said the Texas court has put the United States in violation of its undisputed treaty obligations.

Bush administration attorneys supported Medellin's appeal. They said Bush acted within his authority and that the Texas court invalidated a presidential action "on a matter of international importance."

Medellin, a gang member, was sentenced to death in state court for the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston. The brutal killings stemmed from a gang initiation.

Lawyers for the state opposed the appeal. They said Bush exceeded his authority and that he cannot pre-empt Texas criminal law.

The Supreme Court will hear arguments and decide the case during its upcoming term that begins in October.

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Abbas said...

i wonder if there has ever been a case where george bush has admitted to wrongdoing voluntarily.

Corey Mitchell said...

I am currently finishing up a book on the Ertman/Pena murders entitled PURE MURDER and I am deeply disturbed by Bush’s involvement in this case.

Joe Medellin committed these murders when he was eighteen years old. He had lived in the United States since the age of nine; half of his entire life. Though his birth name was Jose, he preferred to be called Joe. He even had the name “Joe” tattooed on his body, not “Jose.”

Also, this ridiculous consulate suit was not filed until several years after his conviction for the murders. That was also the same time he started being called “Jose Ernesto.”

It is a complete farce.

I spoke with Andy Kahan from the City of Houston Victim Assistance Program through the Mayor’s office yesterday about this news. He had just gotten off the phone with Adolph Pena, Elizabeth’s father, and had broken the bad news to him. Mr. Pena was livid. He could not believe yet another major obstacle had been tossed in his face in the execution of the punks that raped and slaughtered his daughter.

I wish Bush would have a word with Mr. Pena. I also wish I could e-mail the crime scene photos of the girls to Bush. Nothing like two bloated, purple, maggot-ridden girls with their skulls completely exposed and vaginas eaten away to bring home the reality of what “Joe” Medellin participated in willingly — and then later laughed and bragged about. In fact, it was “Joe” who told Peter Cantu’s brother and sister-in-law that he “had the blood of a virgin on his underwear” later that same night.

Can anyone tell me what exactly is Bush’s motivation?

Corey Mitchell

Anonymous said...

he admittedly helped RAPE and KILL 14 and 16 year old GIRLS. You keep saying we have no right to execute him because he a "mexican citizen" yet you also say that this guy has lived in the US since he was 6 years old. The idea of foriegners to be given some special treatment is if they are not familiar with our laws and customs. This guy knew what he was doing and he knew it was wrong. i can't believe you are actually speaking out on his behalf because he is somehow in your mind being treated unfairly. quit looking for another reason to hate on bush and actually look at this situation. quit putting your agenda of making bush look bad and look at the fact that this illegal productive member of our society raped and killed two girls. keep up your blog buddy, keep pretending you're making a difference, keep speaking out for rapist murderers because you dont support bush. keep ignoring the real issue. keep pretending like you know what the hell is going on in other parts of the country, like you have any idea what it is like having someone like jose threaten your family.

Vleeptron Dude said...

The special treatment was in a treaty the United States signed with most other nations of the world.

And we passed it in Congress and the president signed it because that's the only way, when an American citizen is arrested and jailed in other foreign countries, that the US citizen can have the right to speak to an official of the US embassy.

btw ... you talk like a lynch mob.

The Rule Of Law is slow, tedious, frustrating.

A lynching is quick and very satisfying.

I never said I liked the guy or wanted to give him a break.

But we signed the consular treaty and promised to abide by it. A Texas lynch mob has no right to ignore it.

Anonymous said...

First I would like to say that I had never agreed with the Death Penalty, I always stated it was wrong, however, I was WRONG!! I had never heard of this case until about a week and a half ago when I came across a book on our break room table. The book "Pure Murder" was the account of Elizabeth and Jennifers brutal rapes and murder. After reading the book I have to say these MONSTERS deserve to die. I think because this boy was born in Mexico, does not make him immune from our laws, he lived here, grew up here went to school here. He needs to die here for what he done.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Yo Anonymous --

Try to use a name. I use mine. Back your beliefs up with yours.

Americans get busted for crimes in Mexico (and Turkey and China and India and etc.) all the time, and our government fully expects Mexico to abide by all treaties, particularly letting an imprisoned American have full access to see the US Consul.

It's not about what a creep this guy was. It's about a treaty we signed -- because we need this treaty to protect our own citizens all over the world.

And it's about Texas thinking it has the legal right to trump a federally passed treaty. It doesn't. Fact is, if Texas had obeyed the treaty and given this guy access to the Mexican consul -- Texas still would have had the right and power to execute him.

MarisaH said...

No matter what our opinions on Jose as a person are, the U.S. signed a treaty in 2004 with Mexico. Texas is claiming that they did not sign it therefore are not bound by it. Horsesh**!! Correct me if I'm wrong, but, Texas is part of the U.S. I've been writing Jose for 2 months and I pray that he gets a stay. I am by no means downplaying his crime, I do believe that he should receive life in prison without the possibilty of parole.

Vleeptron Dude said...

Hi MarisaH --

As you can see, almost all the comments so far really want to execute this guy, and almost all of the mob seem to be Texans.

Texans and their political leaders have sure earned their reputation for being a very death-penalty-happy state.

But thanks for reminding us that not all Texans think that way. Some manage to keep their heads, and hearts, and reason enough to focus on Bigger Pictures.

I travelled deep and long in Mexico. I had a wonderful time and miss it a lot. But as Gringos and Gringas, we always worried a lot about being tossed into a Mexican jail and having a very hard time getting out and ever getting home.

The Consular Treaty wasn't passed to outrage Texans. It was passed to make all Americans a little safer when they travel abroad to some really funky places.

Nobody gets a Get Out Of Jail Free card when he gets a prison visit from the American Consul. Access to the Mexican Consul would not have opened the Texas prison door for Jose Medellin.

But when we want a world with a little more justice and a world with a little more safety, treaties like these are the way we go about making a dangerous world a little less dangerous.

Thanks for being an unusual Texan and seeing a Bigger Picture. said...

I think everybody should glance at this.