Sunday, August 3, 2008
State law must not yield to international wishes
Jose Ernesto Medellin is scheduled to be executed by the state of Texas next Tuesday, a date that is, in the estimation of many, not a moment too soon. According to his own confession, and the testimony of others, Medellin and several others brutally gang-raped, beat, then strangled (first with a belt, then with the girls' own shoelaces) 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Peña as the two were walking home on the evening of June 24, 1993. Medellin, et al., further brutalized the girls' bodies after their death "to make sure they were really dead," later bragging to friends.
Without a doubt, these murders constitute two of the most horrible crimes in recent memory. Yet despite the evil inherent in Medellin's actions, and the conviction and death sentence imposed by a jury of his peers, a faction clamors for justice to be hamstrung in favor of an "internationalist" legal standard inconsistent with our domestic rule of law. Central to its argument is the shaky claim that a nonbinding ruling by an international court, existing as part of the United Nations Charter, should somehow trump decisions by Gov. Rick Perry, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court. [On Friday the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Medellin's latest petition on grounds it was not filed in a timely manner.] The background in this case shows how weak and indefensible the "internationalist" argument really is.
The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires that foreign nationals be given access to their respective consulates within three days of being charged with a crime. Despite living in the United States since the age of 3, Medellin is a Mexican national. Roughly three hours after his arrest, and before the state of Texas was required to notify the Mexican Consulate of his detention, Medellin signed a Miranda waiver and provided a detailed written confession of his crimes. At that time, he was not told of his right to notify the Mexican Consulate of his detention, but was given a court-appointed attorney and was granted the same protections as every other criminal defendant in Texas.
Despite having ample opportunity to do so, Medellin never asserted any rights under the Vienna Convention, either at the guilt or penalty phase of his trial, and was subsequently convicted by a jury of his peers, and sentenced to death. [Mark Godsey]