[R-G] Mexico vs. US on Death Penalty

Yoshie Furuhashi critical.montages at gmail.com
Tue Jul 29 23:18:59 MDT 2008

Death penalty is very popular in the United States.  Not only 69% of
Americans say that they support death penalty, but the support is _up_
from 59% in 1936 (the year when Gallup apparently started doing
surveys on the issue) and 42% in 1966 (the year when support for death
penalty was the lowest in the history of Gallup polls).  Moreover, 49%
of Americans say death penalty is _not imposed often enough_ (26% say
"just the right amount" of capital punishment is meted out, 21% say it
is used "too often," and the rest have no opinion).  57% of Americans
say they think that death penalty is applied "fairly."  (For
information about the trends of American opinions on death penalty
from 1936 to 2007, see

The Mexican government is right-wing today and has been so for quite
some time, but its stand on death penalty is good, and it has even
gone to bat for Mexican nationals on the American death row, despite
its general reluctance to risk its good relations with the US
government. -- Yoshie

October 12, 2007
Sixty-Nine Percent of Americans Support Death Penalty
Majority say death penalty is applied fairly

Death Penalty

July 18, 2008
Texas Turns Aside Pressure on Execution of 5 Mexicans

HOUSTON — Despite pleas from the White House and the State Department,
as well as an international court order to review their cases, Texas
will execute five Mexicans on death row, a spokeswoman for the
governor said Thursday.

The first of the executions — that of José Ernesto Medellín, 33,
convicted in the 1993 rape and murder of two teenage girls here — is
scheduled for Aug. 5.

The decision by Gov. Rick Perry to allow the executions is the latest
twist in a long-running battle between Mexico, which has no death
penalty, and the United States over the fate of 51 Mexicans facing
capital punishment in several states, including 14 in Texas.

On Wednesday, the International Court of Justice at The Hague ordered
a review of five of the Texas cases after Mexico complained that the
convicts, all men, had not been allowed a chance to talk to a Mexican
consul after their arrests, as required under the 1963 Vienna
Convention on Consular Relations.

But that argument holds little sway in Texas, a place with a long
history of upholding the death penalty and of telling other
governments to mind their own business.

"This ruling doesn't change anything," said Mr. Perry's spokeswoman,
Allison Castle. "This is an individual who brutally gang-raped and
murdered two teenage women. We don't really care where you are from;
you can't do that to our citizens."

The ruling went further than a 2004 decision by the international
court, which again sided with Mexico, ordering a review of all 51
cases to determine if a consul's intervention might have changed the

President Bush, who as Texas' governor oversaw 152 executions, ordered
his home state to comply with the international court. But Texas
refused and fought Mr. Bush's order in court. In March, the United
States Supreme Court ruled that the president had overstepped his
powers and that only Congress could require the state to change its
judicial procedures to comply with the 1963 treaty.

On Monday, Representative Howard L. Berman, Democrat of California,
submitted legislation to deal with the Supreme Court's ruling. The
bill, though, is not expected to come up for a vote anytime soon,
especially in the charged atmosphere of an election year, aides to Mr.
Berman said.

State Department officials said the execution of Mr. Medellín and the
other four convicted killers might erode the ability of the United
States to help people accused of crimes abroad.

Mr. Perry, a Republican, stood firm, saying the Supreme Court ruling
in March had freed Texas to go ahead with the executions, starting
with that of Mr. Medellín, one of six young men that a jury found had
raped and strangled Elizabeth Peña, 16, and Jennifer Ertman, 15, in a
park one night.

Mr. Medellín was 18 at the time and had lived most of his life in
Texas; he signed a confession in English.

A spokesman for the Mexican Embassy in Washington, Ricardo Alday,
accused Texas of "an irreparable breach of international obligation"
if it did not delay the executions until Congress could act on Mr.
Berman's bill.

A lawyer representing Mr. Medellín, Donald Francis Donovan of New
York, said he would seek such a delay in Texas state court.

"Everyone agrees that the U.S. made a deal here," Mr. Donovan said,
"and for Texas to breach that deal when it was made by the people of
the United States as a whole would not be right."

For relatives of the murdered girls, questions about international
relations seem irrelevant.

"This has nothing to do with the World Court; it has nothing to do
with the U.N.," said Jennifer's father, Randy Ertman. "This has
everything to do with what Mexico wants, not what Texas wants. The
people of Texas want the death penalty."

Ashley Marchand contributed reporting.

Mexico buys death defense
The nation picks up tabs for citizens' capital punishment fights in
U.S. The Mexican government hired a Denver civil-rights attorney and
20 other U.S. lawyers to take on cases.
By Mike McPhee
The Denver Post
Article Last Updated: 07/28/2008 12:54:19 AM MDT

When a Houston jury recently refused to sentence a Mexican citizen to
death for gunning down a Houston police officer, it sparked an uproar
in Texas, where in recent years convicted killers have been executed
about every other week.

The uproar was partly fueled by the fact that the government of Mexico
had paid to protect defendant Juan Quintero's life by hiring several
prominent American death-penalty lawyers, including noted Denver
civil-rights attorney David Lane.

The case brought the first widespread publicity to a campaign Mexico
is waging to protect the lives of its citizens. The Mexican government
doesn't recognize the death penalty or even a life sentence without

"The Mexican government has an obligation to defend its citizens
abroad," said Mexican embassy spokesman Ricardo Alday in Washington,
who couldn't put a cost on the program.

Quintero was deported to Mexico in 1999 after his conviction for
molesting a 12-year-old. Then he snuck back into the U.S. and, in
September 2006, shot Houston police officer Rodney Johnson seven times
after a traffic stop.

Lane, who spent some of March, April and May in Houston working on
Quintero's case, said Mexico's program gave Quintero what may have
been his best chance at avoiding death. Quintero's lawyers argued that
he was insane and had a brain abnormality.

"I truly take my hat off to Mexico for funding this program," Lane
said. "Defending a death-penalty case can cost hundreds of thousands
of dollars to more than $1 million. None of these defendants has any
money, and the cases fall to public defenders, at the taxpayers'

Lane is one of 21 U.S. lawyers hired by Mexico to represent 51 Mexican
citizens in the United States currently on death row and another 200
facing death-penalty trials. Since 2000, U.S. lawyers hired by Mexico
have represented some 450 defendants.

Locally, Lane is assisting public defenders in the murder and
kidnapping case against Jose Luis Rubi-Nava, 37, a Mexican citizen
facing the death penalty in Douglas County District Court. He's
charged with dragging his girlfriend to death behind his pickup in
September 2006.

Colorado has one other Mexican citizen facing the death penalty — an
inmate at the federal penitentiary in Florence charged with murdering
another inmate. Five other Mexicans in Colorado are charged with
first-degree murder and may face the death penalty, a situation Lane
said he is monitoring.

Lane accuses District Attorney Carol Chambers, who is seeking the
death penalty against Rubi-Nava, of violating an international treaty
by not allowing Rubi-Nava to consult with Mexican counsel. He also
says Chambers violated the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty by sending
investigators to Mexico without permission to investigate Rubi-Nava's

"Mexico will likely file a formal protest as a result of these two
violations," Lane said, adding that it will probably be filed with
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. "Mexico views Carol Chambers
as a human-rights violator."

Chambers did not return several phone calls.

Mike McPhee: 303-954-1409 or mmcphee at denverpost.com

July 29, 2008
Execution by Military Is Approved by President

WASHINGTON — President Bush on Monday approved the first execution by
the military since 1961, upholding the death penalty of an Army
private convicted of a series of rapes and murders more than two
decades ago.

As commander in chief, the president has the final authority to
approve capital punishment under the Uniform Code of Military Justice,
and he did so on Monday morning in the case of Pvt. Ronald A. Gray,
convicted by court-martial for two killings and an attempted murder at
Fort Bragg, N.C., the White House said in a statement.

Although the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of the death
penalty in the military in 1996, no one has been executed since
President Ronald Reagan reinstated capital punishment in 1984 for
military crimes.

The last military execution was ordered by President Dwight D.
Eisenhower in 1957, although it was not carried out by hanging until
1961. President John F. Kennedy was the last president to face the
question, in 1962, but commuted the sentence to life in prison.

"While approving a sentence of death for a member of our armed
services is a serious and difficult decision for a commander in chief,
the president believes the facts of this case leave no doubt that the
sentence is just and warranted," the White House press secretary, Dana
Perino, said in a statement after the decision was first reported by
The Associated Press. "Private Gray was convicted of committing brutal
crimes, including two murders, an attempted murder and three rapes."

Mr. Bush, a supporter of the death penalty, approved the sentence
after Private Gray's case wound its way through the Army's legal
bureaucracy and the military's courts of appeal. The secretary of the
Army sought Mr. Bush's final approval.

There are six people on the military's death row at Fort Leavenworth,
Kan. but Private Gray was the first whose sentence went to the
president. Unlike in the civilian courts, where the president can
overturn or commute a sentence, in the military system, he is required
effectively to approve it.

It can still be appealed, which the White House suggested was all but
certain, meaning an execution is not expected to occur soon, possibly
not during Mr. Bush's remaining months in office.

The military death penalty has been dormant for so long that it was
also unclear what the method of execution would be.

Ms. Perino declined to discuss the decision further, citing the
potential for appeals. She added that Mr. Bush's "thoughts and prayers
are with the victims of these heinous crimes and their families and
all others affected."

Private Gray was accused of four murders and eight rapes from April
1986 to January 1987 while serving at Fort Bragg.

According to the White House's chronology of the case, he pleaded
guilty to two murders and five rapes, among other offenses, in state
court in North Carolina and was sentenced to life in prison.

He separately faced court-martial in two murders and an attempted
murder, involving three women, two of them Army soldiers, the other a
civilian taxi driver whose body was found on the post.

In 1988, he was convicted, and his sentence has since been approved by
his command, the Army Court of Military Review, and the Court of
Appeals for the Armed Forces. In 2001, the United States Supreme Court
declined to hear his case.

Mr. Bush's decision clears the way for a new round of appeals in
civilian courts, beginning with the Federal District Court, said
Eugene R. Fidell, president of the National Institute of Military
Justice, a nonprofit organization in Washington. Among the issues, Mr.
Fidell said, was the fact that Congress has since required capital
cases to be considered by a 12-member jury, not the smaller ones that
previously decided cases.

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