HUNTSVILLE -- The state of Texas defied an international court and executed Jose Ernesto Medellin late Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court denied a stay of execution for the killer in the 1993 Houston gang rape-murders of two teenage girls. Medellin, 33, was pronounced dead by lethal injection at 9:57 p.m., nine minutes after receiving the fatal cocktail and nearly four hours after his scheduled 6 p.m. execution.... At issue in Medellin's last-minute appeal was his assertion that authorities refused his right to contact the Mexican Consulate after his arrest. By doing so, his attorneys argued, officials violated a 1963 treaty signed by the U.S. and 165 other countries that should have granted him access. His case stirred international controversy when the United Nations' high court found his rights had been violated. The court ordered the execution be stayed. While some cheered Texas' decision to execute him on Tuesday, others warned that his death could render the treaty void, putting the lives of American citizens arrested overseas in jeopardy.
Let me just begin by stating that if ever anyone might be considered worthy of execution, it would be Ernesto Medellin. The rape and murder of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pe‚àö¬±a were senseless and brutal acts, and Medellin's boastfulness in the aftermath of his arrest speaks to his crushing lack of redeeming human values. He's a murderer and a rapist...and certainly not someone who's earned the right to be a free man. Even I have to wonder, though, about Texas' determination to execute Medellin despite the wishes of an international court and in contravention of international treaty obligations. Is Texas' lust for frontier justice so insatiable, so all-consuming that the only acceptable outcome is the one that results in state-sponsored murder? Do two wrongs really make a right?
You can argue that Medellin forfeited his right to live the night he raped and murdered Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pe‚àö¬±a, and perhaps he did. But why the rush? Why did the state of Texas insist on ignoring both an international court and the terms of an international treaty? Perhaps treaties are only useful when they work to one's advantage? Or perhaps in an election year when Republicans are being battered on all sides this was a chance for Texas Republicans to show that they're still tough on crime?
My question is what might happen now when an American is detained overseas. Will they be allowed the protection of an American consulate as required by the treaty Texas just violated? Or will they be denied their rights under that treaty...because it's not as if the treaty is being honored by this country? Perhaps it won't present a problem, but it will be just one more thing for Americans to consider before they travel overseas. If America can't be trusted to respect it's international treaty obligations, how can we reasonably expect other countries to do the same?
Then again, killing people is what Texas does...particularly Harris County, my old stomping grounds. I suppose the Biblical certainty of "an eye for an eye" appeals to a certain segment of the population that feels (whether accurately or not) that the death penalty is an effective deterrent. I can't help but wonder, though...does the state of Texas simply not care about anything but frontier justice? Do international treaty obligations simply not matter in Texas' legal system? Or is it more about the "F--k you; we're Texas...just try and stop us" mentality that permeates the thought processes of Republican political leaders in Texas? And Lord knows Texans by and large love the death penalty and the (generally false) feeling of safety and security it provides them.
Worst of all, what happens when it's proven that Texas has "accidentally" executed an innocent man? What's an acceptable margin of error for human life? Is it acceptable to occasionally kill an innocent person if it serves the "Greater Good"? Or do Republican politicians in Texas simply lack the political courage and moral fiber to admit that the system of state-sponsored execution is broken and that it's made Texas an international pariah?
Then again, when it's all about appearing "tough on crime", who gives a damn what anyone outside of Texas thinks?