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I love Texas justice. I was worried that they would cave in to the media, but didn't. I saw the protesters on the news last night, and almost got sick. Total strangers outside of the Huntsville Prison, crying like babies when the killed the scum. These people make me sick.
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.
In his final statement, Medellin apologized for his crime: "I'm sorry that my actions brought you pain. I hope this brings the closure to what you seek," he said. "Don't ever hate them for what they do. Never harbor hate."
He then looked toward the witness room in which his friend, Sandra Crisp, was watching, crying softly, and smiled. "I love you," he said.
In the adjoining witness room, relatives of the two victims watched with little apparent emotion.
Medellin, a Mexican national who spent most of his life in the United States, was condemned for the June 1993 murders of Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Peña, 16.
The girls were raped and strangled with a belt and shoelace after they stumbled into a drunken gang initiation rite while cutting through the park to get home before their curfew.
Four days after the crime, a tip from a gang member's brother led authorities to the bodies, then to the suspects.
Within three hours of his arrest, Medellin admitted his role in the gruesome murders, appalling authorities with his boastful, callous description of the night's events.
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.
The fathers of the victims, however, expressed relief.
"It's a long time coming," Adolfo Peña said, "Fifteen years is a long time. I wish those two girls could've lived that long."
Randy Ertman stood with his arm around Christina Alamaraz, a close friend. He said recent media attention had been too focused on Medellin and not their daughters.
Sandra Babcock, a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago and an attorney for Medellin, said the case was not just about one Mexican national on death row.
"It's also about ordinary Americans who count on the protections of the consulate when they travel abroad in strange lands," she said. "It's about the reputation of the U.S. as a nation that adheres to the rule of law."
Hours before the execution, death penalty supporters and opponents gathered at Huntsville's Walls Unit, site of the state execution chamber.
Elaine Jackson of Houston, who identified herself as a friend of the Peñas, was among those supporting the execution.
"The girls didn't get a second chance, why should he?" Jackson demanded. "Why should he keep on breathing?"
On the other side of the street, Nancy Bailey was among those opposing the execution. Putting Medellin to death, she said, would flout the nation's treaty commitments and endanger Americans arrested abroad.
Medellin, who granted few interviews on death row, told a Mexican news reporter that he'd had 15 years in prison to compose his emotions. On Monday and Tuesday he visited with his parents, whom he had not seen since 2001, and spoke by phone with his younger brother, who is serving 40 years for his part in the crime.
Jose Medellin had insisted he told police he was a Mexican citizen; Gov. Rick Perry's office said he did not. In 2004, the world court, acting on a Mexican lawsuit against the U.S., ordered hearings to determine if the cases of Medellin and dozens of other Mexican nationals in custody had been damaged by the treaty violations.
President Bush urged the hearings be held. Texas, however, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which held that only Congress had authority to demand such hearings.
Weeks after the decision, a bill retroactively calling for the hearings was introduced in Congress. The bill, however, remains in legislative limbo.
"Outside of Texas this is a huge diplomatic misstep," said Columbia Law School professor Sarah Cleveland. "Unfortunately, I doubt the international community is likely to brush this off as simply the actions of Texas. In the international community ... the United States is responsible for Texas' actions."
Judge Cathy Cochran, of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, took a different view.
"Some societies may judge our death penalty barbaric," she noted. "Most Texans, however, consider death a just penalty in certain rare circumstances. Many Europeans disagree. So be it."
Medellin was the second person executed for the attack.
Derrick O'Brien was put to death in July 2006. Gang leader Peter Cantu remains on death row. Two others, 17 at the time of the crime, had their death sentences commuted to life in prison.
Wednesday, August 6, 2008
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