Mexican National Executed in Texas

By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 6, 2008

MEXICO CITY, Aug. 5 -- Texas executed on Tuesday night a Mexican citizen whose case inflamed passions in this country about capital punishment and tested international standards of justice.

José Ernesto Medellín was convicted of raping and killing two teenage girls in 1993 as part of a gang initiation rite. He died after a lethal injection at the state prison in Huntsville shortly before 11 p.m. Eastern time, authorities in Texas said.

The execution was delayed several hours by a last-minute appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, which rejected a stay on a 5 to 4 vote.

In an unsigned "per curiam" opinion, the court majority noted that neither Congress nor the Texas legislature had taken any action in the case since the Supreme Court decided four months ago in Medellín v. Texas not to intervene.

All four of the court's more liberal justices filed dissents from the decision.

Medellín's attorneys had hoped for a reprieve after winning a ruling last month by a U.N. court, which urged Texas officials to delay the execution until his case could be further reviewed.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the World Court, had ruled in 2004 that Medellín and four other Mexican nationals on U.S. death rows deserved to have their cases reexamined because they were not given the opportunity to seek legal help from Mexican consulates, a right granted under the 1963 Vienna Convention. Anti-death-penalty lawyers also have hoped that the rulings would help the cases of 46 other Mexican nationals on U.S. death rows who have asserted that they did not receive access to consular services.

But Texas courts refused President Bush's subsequent request to review Medellín's case. In March, the U.S. Supreme Court backed the state, ruling in a 6 to 3 decision that it was not bound by the international court's ruling.

The decision by Texas Gov. Rick Perry (R) not to halt the execution has been lambasted for the past two days by demonstrators in Nuevo Laredo, who have waved signs and lit candles on the Mexican side of a border crossing.

"The governor is a murderer," Adriana Contreras, an anti-death-penalty activist, said in a telephone interview from the border city. "This shows the world that they have no hearts in America."

Mexico formally abolished the death penalty in 2005, though it had not executed anyone for decades before that.

This week, Mexico's Senate urged President Felipe Calderón to press U.S. officials to delay the execution. Calderón did not respond to the Senate request.

Staff writer Robert Barnes in Washington contributed to this report.

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