Wednesday, 26 March 2008

Ruling: Bush can't order hearing for condemned Mexican


Ruling: Bush can't order hearing for condemned Mexican

The Supreme Court sided with Texas against President Bush in denying an appeal for a Mexican national who is on Death Row in Texas.

McClatchy News Service

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday against President Bush in a far-reaching legal dispute with his home state, concluding that the president can't order Texas courts to conduct a new hearing for a Mexican national who's on Death Row.

In a 6-3 decision, the court sided with the state of Texas in denying an appeal for José Ernesto Medellín, who's on Texas' Death Row for the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston 15 years ago.

The case had broad international reach and threatened to strain relations further between the United States and Mexico. The Mexican Embassy in Washington expressed disappointment with the ruling.

Bush was cast in an unlikely legal alliance with Medellín by insisting that Texas abide by an international treaty that requires those arrested abroad to have access to their country's consular officials. Medellín asserts that he was denied access to Mexican representatives.

In the majority opinion, written by Chief Justice John G. 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,'' stemmed 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 Medellín 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.

''Now, 15 years after two innocent teenage girls were brutally gang-raped and murdered, their grieving families are a step closer to justice,'' Texas Solicitor General Ted Cruz said.

New York attorney Donald Frances Donovan, who represented Medellín at the request of the Mexican government, was traveling out of the country and unavailable to discuss his next legal step. But in a statement through his office, Donovan said the ruling constituted a ``departure from the original intent of the Constitution and over 200 years of enforcement of treaties by U.S. courts.''

Medellín, 33, remains at the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Texas, one of 368 Death Row inmates, including nine women, who are awaiting execution in the state.

Texas, like other states, has a de facto moratorium on executions until the Supreme Court rules on a case from two Kentucky Death Row inmates challenging the constitutionality of lethal injections. Roe Wilson, a prosecutor in the Harris County district attorney's office, said the office wouldn't proceed with seeking an execution date for Medellín until after a ruling in the lethal-injection case.

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