By ALLAN TURNER and ROSANNA RUIZ
Copyright 2008 Houston Chronicle
Texas will go ahead with the scheduled Aug. 5 execution of Houston rapist-killer Jose Medellin despite Wednesday's United Nations world court order for a stay, a spokesman for Gov. Rick Perry said.
The UN's International Court of Justice's call for stays in the cases of Medellin and four other Mexican nationals awaiting execution in Texas came in response to a petition filed last month by the Mexican government.
The petition sought to halt executions to allow for review of the killers' cases to determine whether denying them access to the Mexican Consulate after arrest harmed their trial defenses.
The Geneva Convention stipulates that, upon request, an alien offender's national consulate must be notified of an arrest.
In its order, the world court quotes the Mexican government's argument that "Texas has made clear that unless restrained, it will go forward with the execution without providing Mr. Medellin the mandated review and reconsideration," which will "irreparably" breach the U.S. government's obligations to the court's 2004 order.
The Mexican government reasons that "the paramount interest in human life is at stake," according to the court's order.
If Medellin and the other nationals are executed without additional court reviews, "Mexico would forever be deprived of the opportunity to vindicate its rights and those of the nationals concerned."
Perry's office dismissed the argument.
"The world court has no standing in Texas and Texas is not bound by a ruling or edict from a foreign court," Perry spokesman Robert Black said.
"It is easy to get caught up in discussions of international law and justice and treaties. It's very important to remember that these individuals are on death row for killing our citizens."
Medellin, 33, was condemned for the 1993 killings of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, who stumbled into a drunken midnight gang initiation rite at T.C. Jester Park in north Houston.
Medellin's accomplice, Derrick O'Brien, was executed in July 2006. Also sentenced to die is gang leader Peter Anthony Cantu. Three other accomplices are serving prison sentences. Medellin was the only non-American involved in the murders.
Wednesday's UN court decision in The Hague, Netherlands, was the latest development in an an ongoing legal wrangle that has involved President Bush, the U.S. Supreme Court and the Mexican government.
In 2004, the UN court ordered review of the cases of 51 Mexican nationals facing execution in the United States because they had not been allowed to speak with their nation's consular officials.
In February 2005, Bush directed state courts to abide by the U.N. court decision, specifically asking Texas to review Medellin's case.
In March, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Bush had overstepped his authority. Chief Justice John Roberts said the president cannot mandate such court reviews without congressional concurrence.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Howard Berman, D-Calif., filed a bill providing for such reviews. As of Wednesday, it was in committee.
Weeks after the Supreme Court's ruling, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey jointly wrote Perry, asking for his help in obtaining the reviews.
The United States, they wrote, continues to be bound by the world court's decision under international law.
International law expert Sarah Cleveland, a professor of human and constitutional rights at New York City's Columbia Law School, said in an e-mail that if the U.S. fails to act on the world court order, other countries may follow suit.
"This can only come back to hurt U.S. citizens when they are detained abroad," she wrote.
" ... When a global leader like the U.S. refuses to comply with its clear international legal obligations (and everyone agrees that this is a clear legal obligation), it undermines the willingness of other states to comply with their own obligations and it inspires them not to trust us to obey ours."
Meanwhile, Randy Ertman, father of Jennifer Ertman, hotly denounced the world court's order for stays.
"The world court don't mean diddly," he said. "This business belongs in the state of Texas. The people of the state of Texas support the execution. We thank them. The rest of them can go to hell."
Adolfo Pena, father of Elizabeth Pena, agreed.
"I believe we've been through all the red tape we can go through," he said. "It's time to rock and roll."