Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Mexican National Executed Last Night in Texas

When you bring together such controversial subjects as the death penalty, immigration and the United Nations, you are certain to create a circumstance that garners a lot of attention. The execution of Jose Ernesto Medellin in a Texas prison last night was the culmination of a case that had received the international spotlight for many years.

Mr. Medellin was found guilty for his role in the gang rape and murder of two teenaged girls back in 1993 and was sentenced to the death penalty. While every death penalty case gets a certain amount of media attention, the fact that Medellin was a Mexican national captured the attention of lawmakers and activists across the globe. His attorneys filed a last-minute appeal stating that their client had been denied the opportunity to meet with the Mexican consulate. According to a 1963 treaty signed by the United States and 165 other countries, foreign nationals are to be given the right to meet with the consulate when facing criminal charges.

The United States faces plenty of international pressure concerning the death penalty, as its use of the practice is rare among industrialized countries. So, the high court of the United Nations used this opportunity to declare that Medellin’s rights had been violated and that there should be a stay to his execution. The United States Supreme Court thought otherwise, and Jose Medellin was declared dead by means of lethal injection at 9:56 p.m. on Tuesday night.

The concern among some attorneys is that this execution will place Americans in danger when they are in foreign countries. Will other governments now feel that they do not have to abide by the 1963 treaty? Sandra Babcock, a law professor at Northwestern University and an attorney for Medellin, said, "[This decision is] also about ordinary Americans who count on the protections of the consulate when they travel abroad in strange lands. It's about the reputation of the U.S. as a nation that adheres to the rule of law." At this time, Congress is still considering legislation that would launch an investigation into the handling of Medellin’s case. Medellin insisted that he told arresting officers that he was a Mexican citizen. The governor’s office maintains that this detail was not shared, and therefore the state cannot be held liable for not providing access to the consulate.

At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced and aggressive attorneys who can help with issues surrounding immigration law. We can also assist you if you are a Mexican national and need to coordinate with the Mexican Consulate. In fact, our Austin office shares the same block with the Mexican Consulate in downtown Austin. Please contact us if we can be of assistance to you.

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