This week, the State of Texas executed Jose Medellin for the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls as part of a gang initiation. Medellin, who was a Mexican national, gained international attention when the Government of Mexico protested that arresting authorities had failed to notify Mexican Consular authorities of the arrest as required by international treaty obligations.
Initially, Mexico sued the US on behalf of 51 Mexican nationals before the International Court of Justice, claiming that the US was in violation of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. The court ruled against the US claiming that the US was obligated to have the cases reopened and reconsidered. While the US initially defended itself against the suit, it later agreed to abide by the ruling.
Interestingly, as the Medellin case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, the Bush Administration entered the case on Medellin's behalf, asking Texas to review the case and the sentence. Eventually, Texas prevailed before the Supreme Court clearing the way for Medellin's execution.
While I am pleased that justice was served on this vicious murderer, I would like to offer my own thoughts on the controversy based on my own experience as a DEA agent, both serving in foreign countries and having arrested foreign nationals in the US. It is true that international agreements obligate us to notify foreign consular offices when a foreign national is arrested. I suppose it is possible that many small police agencies in various parts of the country may not be aware or ignore the policy - I don't know why Medellin's arrest was not reported.
While I was stationed in Thailand and Italy with DEA - especially in Thailand - it was not uncommon for US citizens to be arrested on drug offenses by Thai police. In these cases, the US Consular office was notified. The question is this: Once notified, what is the responsibility of the consulate to the person arrested? I may leave out a detail here and there that someone in the State Department could correct, but essentially it is as follows:The consulate will assist in notifying the arrestee's family in the US of the arrest. The consulate may assist in communication between the arrestee and his/her family, i.e. ensuring delivery of mail, etc. A consular officer will make monthly visits to the arrestee while incarcerated to follow up on the person's condition, etc. The consulate will take steps to ensure that the arrestee is being treated in a humane manner.The consulate will take steps to ensure that the arrestee is treated the same as citizens of that country consistent with local law. What the consulate cannot do is (and a lot of Americans don't know this):Get the charges dismissed. Get the arrestee out of jail. Legally represent the defendant in court. Insist that American law and rights apply to the arrestee. The point is that the failure of local Texas authorities to notify Mexican Consular officials does not affect the evidence in the case. It does not have anything to with Medellin's guilt or innocence. Medellin's argument that prompt notification could have helped his defense strikes me as without merit. As for whatever error might have been committed by Texas authorities, there are other corrective remedies available without nullifying the prosecution.
Leaving that aside, why did the Bush Administration enter the Medellin case-and several others-on behalf of Mexican death row defendants? Is it because Bush is trying to maintain "good" relations with Mexico-at any cost? Well, when you look at the Bush record in border security, the questionable prosecution of Border Patrol agents Ignacio Ramos and Jose Compean for the shooting of a drug smuggler, the apparent failure to make a timely extradition request for the accused murderer of a Border Patrol agent, and one is left wondering. Medellin's crime was a vicious atrocity, carried out against two innocent teen-age girls without mercy. While some form of diplomatic protest might have been appropriate, Mexico has gone too far in trying to stop the US from exercising capital punishment against vicious murderers who happen to be Mexican citizens.
posted by Gary Fouse
Gary Fouse is a regular contributor to Radarsite with his popular and explosive: The Fouse Report.
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