Texas parole board won't stop execution of Mexican

McClatchy NewspapersAugust 4, 2008 

WASHINGTON — WASHINGTON _ The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Monday unanimously recommended against a reprieve for Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national who's facing execution in Texas on Tuesday for raping and murdering two teenage girls 15 years ago in Houston.

The recommendation, approved 7-0, went to Gov. Rick Perry for a final decision on Medellin's fate. Perry is expected to announce his decision Tuesday, said his spokeswoman, Allison Castle.

The board also rejected the lawyers’ request to commute Medellin’s punishment to a life sentence.

The Bush administration, the Mexican government and much of the diplomatic community have warned of an international backlash if the execution proceeds without a hearing on Medellin's claim that he was denied an opportunity to contact the Mexican consulate after he was arrested.

At issue is a 1963 international treaty signed by the United States and 165 other countries. The treaty, which created the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, asserts that citizens from any of the participating countries are entitled to contact consular officials "without delay" if they're taken into custody abroad.

President Bush ordered Texas and other states to grant hearings to Medellin and other Mexican nationals who are facing execution, but the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that Bush had overstepped his authority in issuing the order. The ruling demolished the central theme of Medellin's appeals and set the stage for his execution.

Medellin's attorneys had asked for an eight-month reprieve to give Congress or the Texas Legislature time to pass legislation allowing state or federal court hearings for Medellin and other Mexican nationals on death rows.

Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., and Texas state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, are offering bills that authorize hearings at the federal and state level, respectively. However, Congress is in recess until early September and the Texas Legislature won't go into session until January.

New York lawyer Donald Francis Donovan, who's representing Medellin on behalf of the Mexican government, said he was “deeply disappointed” with the board’s decision. Other countries, he warned, will have little incentive to abide by the consular-access requirements if Medellin is executed without getting a hearing.

“The board’s action is against the interests of the nation and risks the safety of Americans traveling and living abroad,” he said.

Medellin’s defense team also has asked the U.S. Supreme Court for a stay of execution, warning that carrying out the death sentence against their client will “irreparably violate the nation's treaty obligations.” Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, in an opposing brief, pointed out that the Supreme Court already has turned down Medellin’s appeal, and he urged the justices to reject the condemned man’s request for a stay.

Medellin and other members of a gang called the Black and Whites were sentenced to death for raping and killing Jennifer Lee Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, after the girls stumbled into a gang initiation while they were hurrying home from a party.

Witnesses said Medellin later bragged about the assault and described using a shoelace to strangle one of the girls because he didn't have a gun, according to Texas' Supreme Court brief. Medellin, then 19, also "put his foot on her throat because she would not die," the brief said.

The execution is scheduled for sometime after 6 p.m. CDT Tuesday.

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