Supremes to Hear Case of Mexican National on Death Row

Convicted and sentenced to death for 1993 gang rape and murder, Jose Medellin has argued his case should be overturned.

The U.S. Supreme Court said on April 30 that it would hear the case of Texas death row inmate Jose Medellin during its next session, which begins in October. Medellin, a Mexican national, was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1993 gang rape and murder in Houston but has argued that his case should be overturned because he was denied access to consular authorities after he was arrested.

At issue, in part, is whether Texas must comply with the 1963 Vienna Convention's promise that foreign nationals have access to home-country authorities when traveling abroad, particularly when arrested. Medellin had no access to Mexican authorities until four years after he was convicted of being one of six men responsible for the brutal rape and murder of Houston teens Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Peña.

Medellin's was one of 52 cases named in a lawsuit against the U.S. by Mexico, decided in 2004 by the UN's World Court in the Hague. Mexico argued that the U.S. was violating international treaty by denying the men access to country representatives – important in part because Mexico does not have the death penalty. The World Court ruled in favor of Mexico, prompting President George W. Bush to pen a letter asking Texas courts to "give effect to the [World Court] decision" in considering the appeals of Mexican nationals. Although the Supremes had already accepted Medellin's case on appeal, the appeal was put on hold pending the outcome of a state appeal prompted by Bush's letter. The state court ultimately dismissed Medellin's latest appeal, clearing the way for the Supremes to take it up this fall.

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