Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Congress must stop Texas


Congress must stop Texas

Sunday, July 20, 2008

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in March that the president cannot force Texas to review the death penalty case of Jose Er nesto Medellin, as the World Court wants. But Congress can and should.

Not that Medellin deserves sympathy. He was given the death penalty for his role in the gang rape and murder of two Houston teenage girls in 1993. He is scheduled to die on Aug. 5. There are 50 other Mexican nationals in similar situations in various states, including others in Texas.

But moving ahead with Medellin's execution could have serious repercussions for Americans held in foreign countries.

If America ignores the legitimate objections of other nations to the treatment of their citizens by U.S. criminal courts, it greatly increases the chances other countries will snub American protests to treatment of U.S. citizens.

The key in the Texas case is that the World Court objections are, indeed, legitimate. The U.S. signed a treaty in 1964, along with more than 170 other countries, agreeing that foreign citizens charged with a crime must be given access to their nation's consulate.

Medellin, now 33, and the other Mexicans weren't given that opportunity. And although Texas Gov. Rick Perry doesn't think that's a problem, even the former Texas governor who now sits in the White House knows better.

President Bush tried to order Texas to hold off executing Me dellin and other Mexicans in the same situation but the U.S. Supreme Court in March said he exceeded his authority. But the decision made clear that Congress could enact legislation to make it clear the 1964 treaty was binding on state judges.

Such a bill is now pending in Congress. It should be adopted immediately.

Delaying the Texas executions won't mean Medellin or anyone else will go free. But the rights of Americans overseas will be safeguarded.

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