- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 7, 2008

HUNTSVILLE, Texas | A Mexican-born condemned killer whose case drew international attention has been executed over the objections of an international court and the Mexican government, which contended he was denied access to legal help from his consulate.

With the parents of his victims watching a few feet away, Jose Medellin apologized before he was executed for his part in a horrific attack on two teenage girls 15 years ago.

“I’m sorry my actions caused you pain,” Medellin told the teens’ parents late Tuesday. “I hope this brings you the closure that you seek.”

Nine minutes later, Medellin was pronounced dead. His execution, the fifth this year in Texas, was delayed for about four hours while the U.S. Supreme Court weighed his appeal.

“It’s been a long night,” Randy Ertman, whose daughter was killed by Medellin and five other gang members, said after watching the 33-year-old man receive a lethal injection.

The appeal to the nation’s highest court focused on whether Medellin was denied treaty-guaranteed help from the Mexican consulate when he was arrested.

The court rejected his request for a reprieve, with the majority opinion noting that the Justice Department had not sought the court’s intervention.

“Its silence is no surprise,” the court said, adding that prosecutors never wavered from their position that Medellin “was not prejudiced by his lack of consular access.”

Four justices dissented.

The case attracted attention after the International Court of Justice said Medellin and about 50 other Mexicans on death row across the United States should have new hearings in U.S. courts to determine whether the 1963 Vienna Convention treaty was violated during their arrests.

Texas authorities argued that Medellin, who came to the United States when he was 3 and grew up in Houston, never sought Mexican consular protections until four years after he was arrested. By then, he already had been tried for capital murder, convicted and condemned.

Medellin was the first to die among the cases cited by the international court, also known as the World Court.

“It’s important to recall this is a case not just about one Mexican national on death row in Texas,” one of his attorneys, Sandra Babcock, said after watching him die. “It’s also about ordinary Americans who count on the protection of the consulate when they travel abroad to strange lands. It’s about the reputation of the United States as a nation that adheres to the rule of law.”

President Bush asked states to review the cases, but the Supreme Court ruled earlier this year that neither the president nor the international court could force Texas to wait.

Mexico’s Foreign Relations Department said it sent a note of protest to the State Department about Medellin’s case.

The statement said officials “were concerned for the precedent that [the execution] may create for the rights of Mexican nationals who may be detained in that country.”

In their appeal, Medellin’s attorneys warned that his execution could endanger Americans abroad if they get into legal trouble and said Congress or the Texas Legislature should be given a chance to pass a law setting up procedures for new hearings before he was executed.

Ana Ley and Jorge Vargas contributed to this report.

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