High court backs Texas in dispute over Mexican death row prisoner
The Supreme Court on Wednesday ruled against President Bush in a
far-reaching legal dispute against his home state, concluding that the
president cannot order Texas courts to conduct a new hearing for a Mexican
national on death row.
In a 6-3 decision, the court sided with the State of Texas in denying an
appeal for Jose Ernesto Medellin, who is on Texas' death row in the gang
rape and murder of 2 teen-age girls in Houston 15 years ago.
Bush was cast in an unlikely legal alliance with Medellin by insisting
that Texas abide by an international treaty requiring those arrested
abroad to have access to their country's consular officials. Medellin has
repeatedly asserted that he was denied access to Mexican representatives.
In the majority opinion written by Chief Justice John Roberts, the
justices upheld a 2006 ruling by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals,
which held that Bush overstepped his constitutional authority through "an
intrusive exercise of power" over the Texas court system.
Roberts said that the president's authority, "as with the exercise of any
governmental power," stems from an act of Congress or the Constitution.
Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter dissented.
The ruling marked a victory for Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott, whose
office argued that Medellin waited too long to invoke his treaty claim and
was grasping at the issue to avoid execution in a brutal crime that rocked
Houston in 1993.
Medellin, a former member of a Houston gang known as "the Black and
Whites," was born in Mexico but has lived in the United States since
childhood. He was was one of five defendants sentenced to die for the
rapes and killings of Jennifer Lee Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16,
after they stumbled into a gang initiation while hurrying home from a
Medellin said he was not informed of his right to contact the Mexican
consulate following his arrest, in violation of a 4-decade-old
international treaty ratified by 166 countries, including the United
Since Medellin first lodged his appeal with aggressive backing by the
Mexican government, the case broadened to include 50 other Mexican
nationals on death rows in Texas and 8 other states.
In 2004, the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands, commonly
known as the World Court, ruled that all 51 Mexican defendants were not
given proper notification of their rights to consular access and therefore
were entitled to new hearings.
Under the treaty which created the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations
in 1963, a detained foreign national in any of the 166 participating
countries is entitled to contact his or her consular officials "without
The Bush administration ordered Texas and the other states with condemned
Mexican prisoners to grant new hearings to comply with the World Court
Medellin's appeals lawyers said that the indigent defendant's
court-appointed trial attorney was under suspension for ethics violations
and bungled Medellin's defense. The case has woven its way through state
and federal courts and has been heard twice by the Supreme Court.
(source: Fort Worth Star-Telegram)