death penalty news—-TEXAS

May 5

TEXAS—-new execution date set//foreign national

August execution set for Mexican-born Texas inmate

A Mexican-born Texas prisoner whose death sentence set off an
international dispute and a U.S. Supreme Court rebuke of the White House
received an execution date Monday.

State District Judge Caprice Cosper set the Aug. 5 lethal injection for
33-year-old Jose Medellin for his participation in the gang rape and
strangulation deaths of 2 teenage girls 15 years ago in Houston when they
stumbled upon a gang initiation rite.

The Supreme Court in March refused to hear Medellin's appeal, saying
President Bush overstepped his authority by ordering Texas to reopen his
case and the cases of 50 other Mexican nationals condemned for murders in
the U.S. Texas refused to comply.

Medellin, handcuffed and wearing a bright lime green jail jumpsuit, stood
impassively between his lawyers as Cosper read the order. Lawyers for
Medellin and the Mexican government urged her to delay setting the
execution date.

"This is a case whose effects go far beyond this courtroom," Medellin's
attorney, Sandra Babcock, said.

During Bush's 6-year tenure as Texas governor, 152 inmates went to the
state's death chamber, the nation's busiest. But the president took the
side of Medellin and 50 other Mexican nationals on death rows around the
U.S. after an international court ruled in 2004 their convictions violated
the 1963 Vienna Convention, which provides that people arrested abroad
should have access to their home country's consular officials.

The International Court of Justice, also known as the world court, said
the Mexican prisoners should have new court hearings to determine whether
the violation affected their cases, The White House agreed, but the
Supreme Court said Texas could ignore the international court.

"This country is committed to the rule of law," Donald Donovan, another
Medellin attorney, said. "We have a legal obligation. We should comply
with it."

Defense lawyers, warning that Americans abroad could be in legal jeopardy
if Medellin was executed, wanted the legal adviser to the Mexican foreign
minister to speak. Cosper refused.

"I did not intend to hold a hearing," she said. "I did intend to set an
execution date."

Roe Wilson, assistant Harris County district attorney, said state and
federal courts had reviewed Medellin's case and that Medellin had been
given "the right of every American citizen."

"The defense is trying to create a climate of sensationalism," Wilson
said.

Medellin is among 14 native Mexicans on death row in Texas. Mexico has no
death penalty and sued the United States in the world court in 2003.
Mexico and other opponents of capital punishment have sought to use the
world court to fight for foreigners facing execution in the U.S.

Monday's order makes Medellin at least the sixth inmate in Texas scheduled
to die in the coming months.

Capital punishment around the nation was on a de facto hold for about
seven months until the Supreme Court last month ruled in a Kentucky case
that lethal injection was not unconstitutionally cruel.

Lawyers for a condemned inmate in Georgia were in court trying to keep him
Tuesday from becoming the 1st to be executed since the Supreme Court
ruling. The Georgia Board of Pardons and Paroles rejected a clemency
request Monday.

Medellin was convicted in the June 1993 torture, rape and strangling of
Elizabeth Pena, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 14. The Houston girls, whose
bodies were found 4 days after they failed to return from a friend's
house, had been attacked as they took a shortcut along some railroad
tracks and stumbled on a group drinking beer after initiating a new gang
member.

Evidence showed the girls were gang raped for more than an hour, then were
kicked and beaten before being strangled by a belt or shoelaces.

A tip from the brother of one of the gang members led police to the
arrests in the killings that shocked even crime-hardened Houston.

"This guy got to live 15 more years," Adolph Pena, Elizabeth's father,
said outside the courtroom. "It is a long time coming.

" "I'm looking forward to watching (him) die," said Randy Ertman,
Jennifer's father.

One gang member, Derrick Sean O'Brien, was executed in July 2006. O'Brien
identified Medellin as the person pulling one end of the belt around
Ertman's neck as he yanked on the other. He and Medellin were both 18 at
the time.

Peter Cantu, described by authorities as ringleader of the gang, remains
on death row without an execution date.

2 other gang members, Efrain Perez and Raul Villarreal, had their death
sentences commuted to life in prison when the Supreme Court in 2005 barred
executions for those who were 17 at the time of their crimes. Medellin's
brother, Vernancio, was 14 at the time and received a 40-year prison term.

(source: Associated Press)