WASHINGTON — Texas death-row inmate Jose Ernesto Medellin, the central figure in an international dispute over U.S. treaty obligations, has been sentenced to die on Aug. 5, but the Mexican citizen's attorneys sought congressional intervention to stall the execution.
District Judge Caprice Cosper of Houston set the execution date for Medellin, who has been on death row for nearly 15 years for the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls who stumbled into a gang initiation in Houston.
The U.S. Supreme Court cleared the way for the execution March 25 by rejecting Medellin's appeal in a 6-3 ruling.
Medellin's lawyers argued that Texas failed to abide by an international treaty requiring those arrested abroad to have access to their country's consular officials. Medellin has repeatedly asserted that he was denied access to Mexican representatives.
The one-time gang member was cast in an unlikely legal alliance with President Bush, who cited the treaty obligations in calling on Texas courts to grant new hearings for Medellin and other foreign nationals awaiting executions in the United States.
But the Supreme Court justices, in sustaining a lower court ruling, said that Bush overstepped his authority in ordering the hearings.
Attorneys Donald Francis Donovan of New York and Sandra Babcock of Chicago, representing Medellin, said they'll now ask Congress to force compliance with the treaty.
Babcock said Medellin's execution would be an "irreversible breach" of the United States' treaty obligations and could lead to wholesale violations by other countries.
Under the treaty that created the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations in 1963, a detained foreign national in any of the 166 participating countries is entitled to contact his or her consular officials "without delay."
The Bush administration ordered Texas and other states with condemned Mexican prisoners to grant new hearings to comply with the World Court ruling.