Court to hear Texas chal­lenge of Bush or­der on Mex­i­can killer

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Jerry Seper

The Supreme Court on April 30 said it will de­cide whether Pres­i­dent Bush ex­ceeded his author­ity when he or­dered a Texas court in 2005 to com­ply with an in­ter­na­tional tri­bunal’s rul­ing chal­leng­ing the death sen­tence of a Mex­i­can na­tional who raped and killed two girls.

In a case that pits the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s claims of ex­ec­u­tive power against the role of in­ter­na­tional law in state court pro­ceed­ings, the high cour t agreed to hear ar­gu­ments this fall to de­ter­mine the fate of Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mex­i­can na­tional sen­tenced in 1994 for the Hous­ton killings.

State au­thor­i­ties want to pro­ceed with the ex­e­cu­tion de­spite a rul­ing from the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice in The Hague that said Medellin’s con­vic­tion, along with those of 50 other Mex­ico-born pris­on­ers, vi­o­lated the 1963 Vi­enna Con­ven­tion be­cause he was de­nied le­gal as­sis­tance guar­an­teed un­der the treaty.

The teenagers were raped, beaten and stran­gled by mem­bers of a street gang known as the “Black and Whites” in 1993.

Five gang mem­bers were charged with cap­i­tal mur­der. Medellin, Peter Cantu, Der­rick Sean O’Brien, Raul Vil­lar­real and Efrain Perez all re­ceived the death penalty. O’Brien was ex­e­cuted last year. The sen­tences of Perez and Vil­lar­real were com­muted to life in prison when the Supreme Court barred ex­ecu- tions for those younger than 17 at the time of their crimes.

None of the other gang mem­bers was in­cluded in the world court rec­om­men­da­tion.

Cantu’s ex­e­cu­tion date has not been set. A sixth gang mem­ber, Medellin’s brother, Ver­nan­cio, was 14 at the time and tried as a ju­ve­nile. He is serv­ing 40 years in prison.

The Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion had urged the Supreme Court to rule that the pres­i­dent had the author­ity to di­rect state courts to obey a de­ci­sion by the world court con­cern­ing state crim­i­nal prose­cu­tions, but the state of Texas dis­puted Mr. Bush’s right to in­ter­vene.

The state ar­gued that Medellin had ac­cess to the courts in Texas to chal­lenge his con­vic­tion and that was all the world court rul­ing had re­quired.

Texas also chal­lenged the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion’s as­ser­tion of ex­ec­u­tive power in the case, say­ing Mr. Bush did not have the power to en­sure that state courts com­plied with the in­ter­na­tional tri­bunal’s de­ci­sion on the rights of for­eign na­tion­als ar­rested and pros­e­cuted within the U.S. for crimes com­mit­ted in this coun­try.

The Vi­enna Con­ven­tion on Con­sular Re­la­tions gives for­eign na­tion­als a right to meet with a diplo­matic of­fi­cer from his or her home coun­try when ar­rested in an­other countr y. The In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice at The Hague ruled that the U.S. gover nment must take steps to as­sure that 51 Mex­i­can na­tion­als, in­clud­ing Medellin, who were pros­e­cuted in this coun­try had that right, de­spite state court rules that barred them from re­ly­ing upon the con­ven­tion in chal­leng­ing their con­vic­tions.

Medellin said his con­sular ac­cess rights were vi­o­lated, but was de­nied a chance to press that claim by the 5th U.S. Cir­cuit Court of Ap­peals and by Texas’ high­est crim­i­nal court. In Novem­ber, the Texas state court found that Medellin had failed to raise the is­sue prop­erly as his case un­folded in state court.

Medellin’s ap­peal was sup­ported by the Mex­i­can gov­ern­ment.

In seek­ing to or­der the Texas court to com­ply with the world court rul­ing, the Bush ad­min­is­tra­tion said that al­though it did not agree with the de­ci­sion, Texas’ re­fusal to com­ply would un­der­mine the pres­i­dent’s author­ity to de­ter­mine how the U.S. “will com­ply with its treaty obli­ga­tions.”

In de­fend­ing pres­i­den­tial pow­ers, So­lic­i­tor Gen­eral Paul D. Cle­ment said the state court rul­ing “de­cided fun­da­men­tal ques­tions of fed­eral law re­lat­ing to the author­ity of the pres­i­dent to bring the United States into com­pli­ance with its treaty obli­ga­tions.”


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