Tuesday, August 5, 2008
In a case that has drawn international attention, Texas executed José E. Medellín on Tuesday night in defiance of an international court ruling and despite pleas from the Bush administration for a new hearing.
The execution came just before 10 p.m. Central time, shortly after the United States Supreme Court denied a last request for a reprieve. Protesters for and against the death penalty clamored in the rain outside the Huntsville Unit, about 70 miles north of Houston, where Mr. Medellín was executed by lethal injection.
“I’m sorry my actions caused you pain,” he said to the witnesses present. “I hope this brings you the closure that you seek. Never harbor hate.”
Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, rejected calls from Mexico and Washington to delay the execution, citing the torture, rape and strangulation of two teenage girls in Houston 15 years ago as just cause for the death penalty.
Mr. Medellín and five other teenage boys in his street gang took part in the rape and murder of the girls, Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14. The gang raped the girls for an hour, then strangled them. Their corpses were found two days later.
Two other members of the gang were also sentenced to die. Two had their sentences commuted to life in prison. The sixth, Mr. Medellín’s brother, Vernacio, is serving a 40-year sentence.
Mr. Medellín’s case has become the focal point of a dispute between Mexico and the United States over whether some Mexicans have been denied fair trials because they were never given an opportunity to talk to a consul. A 1963 treaty requires foreigners accused of crimes to be given that opportunity.
Over the last five days, Mr. Medellín’s lawyers tried to stop the execution by arguing to the Supreme Court that it should be put off until Congress had a chance to pass pending legislation that would require a review of similar cases. They argued that Mr. Medellín would be deprived of life without due process if he died before Congress acted.
But the court, in a 5-to-4 decision, said the possibility of Congressional action was too remote to justify a stay. Justice Stephen G. Breyer wrote in dissent that to permit the execution would place the United States “irremediably in violation of international law and breaks our treaty promises.”
Read full article here. [Brooks Holland]