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Texas Turns Aside Pressure on Execution of 5 Mexicans

Resource type: News

The New York Times |

Original Source By JAMES C. McKINLEY Jr. HOUSTON – Despite pleas from the White House and the State Department, as well as an international court order to review their cases, Texas will execute five Mexicans on death row, a spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday. The first of the executions – that of José Ernesto Medellín, 33, convicted in the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls here – is scheduled for Aug. 5. The decision by Gov. Rick Perry to allow the executions is the latest twist in a long-running battle between Mexico, which has no death penalty, and the United States over the fate of 51 Mexicans facing capital punishment in several states, including 14 in Texas. On Wednesday, the International Court of Justice at The Hague ordered a review of five of the Texas cases after Mexico complained that the convicts, all men, had not been allowed a chance to talk to a Mexican consul after their arrests, as required under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. But that argument holds little sway in Texas, a place with a long history of upholding the death penalty and of telling other governments to mind their own business. This ruling doesn’t change anything, said Mr. Perry’s spokeswoman, Allison Castle. This is an individual who brutally gang-raped and murdered two teenage women. We don’t really care where you are from; you can’t do that to our citizens. The ruling went further than a 2004 decision by the international court, which again sided with Mexico, ordering a review of all 51 cases to determine if a consul’s intervention might have changed the outcome. President Bush, who as Texas’ governor oversaw 152 executions, ordered his home state to comply with the international court. But Texas refused and fought Mr. Bush’s order in court. In March, the United States Supreme Court ruled that the president had overstepped his powers and that only Congress could require the state to change its judicial procedures to comply with the 1963 treaty. On Monday, Representative Howard L. Berman, Democrat of California, submitted legislation to deal with the Supreme Court’s ruling. The bill, though, is not expected to come up for a vote anytime soon, especially in the charged atmosphere of an election year, aides to Mr. Berman said. State Department officials said the execution of Mr. Medellín and the other four convicted killers might erode the ability of the United States to help people accused of crimes abroad. Mr. Perry, a Republican, stood firm, saying the Supreme Court ruling in March had freed Texas to go ahead with the executions, starting with that of Mr. Medellín, one of six young men that a jury found had raped and strangled Elizabeth Peña, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 15, in a park one night. Mr. Medellín was 18 at the time and had lived most of his life in Texas; he signed a confession in English. A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, Ricardo Alday, accused Texas of an irreparable breach of international obligation if it did not delay the executions until Congress could act on Mr. Berman’s bill. A lawyer representing Mr. Medellín, Donald Francis Donovan of New York, said he would seek such a delay in Texas state court. Everyone agrees that the U.S. made a deal here, Mr. Donovan said, and for Texas to breach that deal when it was made by the people of the United States as a whole would not be right. For relatives of the murdered girls, questions about international relations seem irrelevant. This has nothing to do with the World Court; it has nothing to do with the U.N., said Jennifer’s father, Randy Ertman. This has everything to do with what Mexico wants, not what Texas wants. The people of Texas want the death penalty. Ashley Marchand contributed reporting.

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