Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Medellin execution on after pleas fail

Murder two girls and go to the head of the express lane.

Prison officials moved Jose Ernesto Medellin from his death row cell to another just steps from Texas' death chamber Monday.

The 33-year-old is set to die by lethal injection this evening, barring a reprieve, for the 1993 gang rape and murder of Houston teenagers Elizabeth Peña and Jennifer Ertman.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Medellin's request for a 240-day reprieve and a request to commute his sentence to life in prison.

Donald Francis Donovan, one of Medellin's attorneys, said in a prepared statement he was disappointed with the board's action, saying it went against "the interests of the nation and risks the safety of thousands of Americans traveling and living abroad."

If the sentence is carried out, Medellin would be the first of 51 Mexican nationals on American death rows whose cases were at the center of a 2004 U.N. International Court of Justice order. The U.N. court ordered a review of the cases because the men had not been allowed to speak with their nation's consular officials following their arrests, in violation of international treaty.

President Bush directed state courts to abide by the court's decision, but the U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year ruled the president had overstepped his authority.

The U.N. court last month called for a stay in the cases of Medellin and four other Mexican nationals at the behest of the Mexican government.

Gov. Rick Perry, Texas courts and the Attorney General's office agree the execution should be carried out.

Medellin will be the second person involved in the Ertman-Peña murders to be put to death. Derrick O'Brien was executed two years ago. Gang leader Peter Cantu awaits an execution date.

The two teenage girls were attacked and strangled after stumbling into the scene of a gang initiation as they took a short cut through T.C. Jester Park on their way to Peña's home.

Death row inmates typically are moved the day of the scheduled execution, Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle Lyons said. Medellin was moved to the Walls Unit in Huntsville, the site of Texas' death chamber, a day early as a security precaution because of the high-profile nature of his case and pending execution.


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