Category Archives: Death Penalty

Commentary from the Right on the Medellin Case

I came across this article by Andy McCarthy regarding the Medellin Case.  (Most of my posts under the Death Penalty category are about this case.)  McCarthy frames his argument in terms of both irony and polarizing politics.  How ironic that the evil George W. Bush is hated by the same people who either are silent with regard to this case or “sheepishly applauding.”  As McCarthy puts it:

What gives?  That’s easy.  The commentariat is currently dominated by post-sovereign activists the Hudson Institute’s John Fonte has brilliantly labeled “transnational progressives.”  These folk, it turns out, have found something that deranges them even more than their contempt for President Bush:  democratic self-determination … especially when those benighted Americans, in Cro-Magnon redoubts like (must we utter the word?) Texas, have used their liberty to enact and enforce the death penalty.

That is the reality beneath the bushels of chatter heaped on Medellin v. Texas, a gruesome case in which the United States Supreme Court heard arguments last week.

. . .  transnational progressives do not like the death penalty, and they will support any edict that impedes execution, no matter how despotic, and no matter that the despot in question is the bane of their existence.

Not really, Mr. McCarthy.  As I’ve stated before, the Bush Administration has made their point loud and clear:  Bush gets to decide on everything that involves foreign policy and also gets to define what counts as foreign policy.  It’s quite simple.  Why McCarthy finds it necessary to twist himself up into knots for another 18 or so paragraphs is beyond me (unless he gets paid by the word).

He relates the facts of the case and the laws at issue, with nice little zingers woven within (for extra fun!) and makes his arguments based on clearly slanting the facts.  For example, McCarthy writes:

Bear in mind:  the World Court hears disputes between countries.  The parties in this particular case, which is called Avena, were Mexico and the United States, not Medellin and the other murderers.  And our treaty commitment was merely to permit the World Court to determine whether a country was in compliance with its consular obligations; we did not empower it to order American courts to remediate individual defendants.

The first part is a straw-man.  In everything that I have read or heard about this case, no one is arguing that the case is about individuals.  (Unless you count someone like Mike Gallagher who focuses on the fact that Medellin was in the country illegally . . . but that’s a different topic.)  This case is one of the original 51 covered by the ICJ ruling and it is the first to progress through the court system.  The ICJ found that the U.S. was not in compliance and ruled that the Mexican nationals should have a rehearing.  McCarthy writes as though the ICJ forced this procedure on U.S. courts.  It didn’t.  The U.S. Senate ratified a treaty.  It’s part of what the U.S. agreed to.

Next, he slams both the SCOTUS and Bush:

The Supreme Court should have been able to reject this contention.  But by now it was 2005:  the second Bush term in which, unlike the first, seeking love from the international community has pride of place over defending American interests like sovereign self-determination. 

 Worse, ignoring the manifest impropriety of the federal government presuming to direct state governments to alter their law in the absence of any U.S. constitutional violation, the President presumed to take this momentous step not in a respectful communication to the affected states, but in a peremptory memorandum to his Attorney General.

Ouch.

 Lastly, McCarthy argues that the Medellin case is no different from Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon (SCOTUS blog link).  I think it is a little different, in that Sanchez-Llamas concerned suppressing evidence given to police and the cases covered in the current ICJ ruling involve contact with or assistance from an accused person’s consulate.  Perhaps I’m drawing too fine a line here.  He ends his piece with a flourish — Texans have the freedom! to sentence anyone they want to the death penalty and Mr. Bush, democracy begins at home!

Michelle Malkin has a throw-away post up about this, but it’s mostly cut and paste — and that’s mostly Phyllis Schlafly blathering on about the *horrors* of treaties.  Sheesh.

Bush and the Medellin Case

I’ve written about this topic before, specifically last fall when the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the Bush Administration had overstepped its authority in its attempt to force the Texas court to abide by a ruling from the International Court of Justice.

That’s a pretty packed sentence, so I’ll cut and paste the background that I wrote last fall:

Medellin, along with four others, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 (s.b. 1994) for the rape and murder of two young girls in Houston.  Medellin, a Mexican national, then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus because he was not allowed to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate.  While this petition was making its way through the legal system, Medellin and 50 other convicted Mexican nationals won their case in the International Court of Justice in March 2004.  Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreign nationals are to be given access to their consulates to seek legal assistance.  Because they were denied that access, the ICJ ruled that those cases had to be reconsidered.

In February 2005, Bush issued a memorandum ordering the Texas courts to follow the ICJ’s ruling. When Medellin’s habeas corpus petition was before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Bush Administration argued that it is the sole authority of the executive to decide if the U.S. has to comply with international law, and that in this case, the U.S. should – meaning that the Texas court should reconsider Medellin’s conviction and sentence.  By doing so, the administration joined, among others, anti-death penalty advocates from the U.S. and around the world.

The Supreme Court sent all of the cases back to the state courts.  Before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Bush Administration made the same argument it had earlier.

The U.S. Supreme Court accepted the case last April and will hear it tomorrow.  (AP and Houston Chronicle articles)

The talk radio commentary that I have heard {Chris Baker yesterday (10/8 hour 1), Michael Savage this evening) about this basically characterizes the case as being Bush siding with Mexico.  That is patently wrong.  Through the Bush Administration’s own arguments (no need to read something into it), it is the doctrine of the Unitary Executive that is the basis of these pleadings.  Had the 51 individuals in question been from Canada, the Administration’s argument would have been the very same.

To put a finer point on it, the Bush Administration is arguing that it and it alone has the authority to decide issues involving international treaties.  In this case, the Administration has decided to abide by a ruling of the ICJ (though it claims that no American should ever be held to any judgement made by that court).  Here are several brief articles from Jurist (in chronological order and links to documents). 

More on the Unitary Executive.

I’ve often wondered (and I am in no way alone) if Bush and Cheney, in their pursuit of the Unitary Executive, have ever considered that someone other than an ideological kin would hold the presidency.  I think they must still think as Bush claimed to just before last fall’s election: the Republicans will retain their seats in congress and at this point, the presidency.  Otherwise why continue down this path?  I think it is the tunnel-vision effects of power.  Neither Bush nor Cheney can resist — even in a case like Medellin’s.

Busy Day

I woke up late, but hey, I’m on vacation.

I listened to the radio most of the day.  Joe Pags at KTRH ***warning — at the momment this sicko has pics and links on his “blog” that you probably don’t want to see*****is a seriously overbearing yahoo.  He insults his callers if they even present a little disagreement with him.  Today his topic was the law that makes two-time sex offenders eligible for the death penalty.  Ok, yes this is Texas and we do have laws on the books that if in the commission of a felony someone is murdered, one can receive the death penalty even if not the murderer.  It is my understanding that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that a defendant cannot receive the death penalty if no death occurred.

One young man who called in was a youth minister and articulately argued against Joe Pags’ point.  (If it’s KTRH, you are guaranteed that the host is a ‘kill them all’ raging maniac.)  Pags went straight for the personal.  You could hear a child in the background on the callers line, and Pags demanded to know the child’s age.  I stopped what I was doing — hoping hoping that the caller would tell Pags that it was none of his business.  The caller hesitated, but in the end told him.  Big mistake.  Pags laid into him and by the time he was done, and from there on out, Pags discredited the caller as a bad parent.

Next up, Rush’s sub — some guy from Cali — yammering for hours about Alberto Gonzales.  I had read a tip on Think Progress earlier and gotten a call from R this morning about it (and other things), so I knew it would be a topic.  KTRH broadcast Bush and Gonzales and bonus Michael Vick pressers. (Local news it advertising a piece about Gonzales’ “hot job prospects” here in Houston.  Great.  Wingnut welfare.)

At 2, I switched over to MAN-TALK to listen to Baker and Hunt — possibly the most inept show on the airwaves.  Baker keeps blaming the problems on the idea that this is a new station — it’s not — just a new couple of hours programming that he and Michael Berry can’t seem to do right.  Why do I listen?  To mock Baker, to see if Cynthia Hunt will improve, and to laugh (at them, not with them.)  Today’s topic was Michael Vick and Baker’s same old same old argument: “but what about the football d00ds who impregnate women?   They are just as bad or worse!”  He also regularly insults Hunt and she never gets in a good dig at him in return.  She tried last week by saying the Baker is too fat to have a “hot young wife.”  I am so very tempted to email her the Lexus/Nexus article about Baker getting liposuction a few years back.

The Astros news conference came on.  Garner and Purpura are out.  I’m glad.  Houston baseball has been crap for the last couple of years.  At least it was the Rangers in that record setting 30 run game and Barry Bonds didn’t hit that homer here or against Houston pitching — minimal silver lining. ***Added — Cecil Cooper moves up from bench coach to interim manager.   This seems promising.***

I switched back over to KTRH for Baker’s solo show.  It was a lame version of sports talk.  Finally it was time for the real news.

When I got on the intertubes, I caught up with the whirling news of yet another “values” Republican get busy in a public restroom.  I ran into Kathleen on a comment thread, trying to be funny (I guess) with her and another commenter trying to tie the Republican perv to a Edwards.  I think that called attempted deflection.

Lest one thinks that I spent the day on my ass, wrong one would be.  Yesterday I bought a beautiful new vacuum cleaner at Sears.  It’s a Eureka Optima.  It’s a fantastic machine — the power!  — the attachments! — the easy of cleaning! — why didn’t I buy this years ago?!?!?!?  The four-footed ones HATE it; Cisco is trying to recruit it to his side — to use it against Tam, I suspect.  I rearranged the living room and the Optima ate all the dust bunnies.  Great Value.  I love Sears.

Links in a bit, I want to watch the news.

I’m so distracted, links will have to wait.

Local news DID NOT report on Gonzales’ future employers.

A Couple of Supreme Court Items

Earlier today I read that the Supreme Court has decided to hear the case of Jose Medellin. (Background here, with other links)

Siding with the killer are the Mexican government, a group of international law experts and the pro-death penalty White House, which considers a Texas court’s decision in Medellin’s case an affront to the president’s sole authority to conduct foreign policy.

While I’m fairly certain there is no way that Medellin will have his sentence commuted to life, I am very curious about the executive powers aspect the White House is pushing.  It will affect other cases (50, I believe) involving Mexican nationals.  It could also affect how U.S. citizens abroad are treated.

 The second case, the court declined to hear. One of the plaintiffs is Hamdan, whose last trip to the Court resulted in some of the only legislation passed last year by the 109th Congress — the Military Commissions Act.  The other is a Canadian national, who at age 15 allegedly killed a U.S. soldier in Afghanistan.  Basically, these two will have to work their way through the newly set up tribunals in Gitmo, and then appeal.  As the article states, there is legislation in the works to amend the MCA to at least allow for habeas corpus claims.

The theme, as I see it, in both of the cases, is that we as a country really need to consider how we treat foreign nationals in our judicial system because we must be able to demand equal treatment for our citizens abroad.  Medellin has at least faced trial, but those professionals charged with complying with the rules possibly didn’t.  The other two, along with all of those held at Gitmo (Hicks pled out) have not had a hearing, much less a trial.  Yet they have been held for years.

Executions and Tragic Accidents

I read an earlier version of this article and later this evening one of the local radio talk show types was discussing the situation.  A little boy from Webster accidentally hanged himself.  Another boy in Pakistan apparently did the same thing.  Both boys had seen news reports which included video footage of Saddam Hussein’s hanging.

I heard several different arguments concerning blame, the media, and publicly showing executions.  I’d like to take them one by one, but I don’t think I truly be able to address all of the aspects.

First, the radio talk show host and several of his callers blamed the children’s parents for not properly supervising their children. Family of the local boy questioned why the video had to be shown on television.  Police called it an accident.  A clinical psycholigist quoted in the article points out that there have been other incidents of children acting out things they had seen on television.  In my view these were terrible accidents.  And yes, parents should be aware of and filter what their children see on television.  But personally, I can think of absolutely no reason whatsoever to have shown that video footage at all, much less the numerous times and at various times of day that was by all of the networks.  Even if none of the stations showed the actual hanging, no legitimate purpose was served by showing any of it.

That point brings me to another argument I heard tonight and have heard for the past few days — that showing the video — especially all of it —  would serve as a deterant to other tyrants around the world, and that having public executions in general would deter criminals in general.  Neither one of these arguments makes any sense to me.  Were there any logic to them, we would be living in a perfect world now.  Public hangings, executions, and mutilations were common in human history and none of those acts stopped people on this planet from committing crimes or becoming tyrants.  I would actually argue that the availability of war porn on the Internet has turned formally fairly normal people into either bloodthirsty *kill them all* types or bed-wetters or both.

One other explanation I heard tonight was that the two boys must have committed suicide.   Given the children’s ages and the other information, this appears to be the least likely possibility.

The family of the local boy is trying to collect money to send his body back to Guatemala for burial.  Crespo Funeral Home (713-644-3831) is handling the arrangements.

Background on the Bush Admin.’s Part in Medellin Case

My original post is hereI have since found some very good articles which give background information and explain the process very well.  I’ll try to summarize all of it here.

 

Medellin, along with four others, was tried, convicted and sentenced to death in 1997 for the rape and murder of two young girls in Houston.  Medellin, a Mexican national, then filed a petition for writ of habeas corpus because he was not allowed to seek assistance from the Mexican consulate.  While this petition was making its way through the legal system, Medellin and 50 other convicted Mexican nationals won their case in the International Court of Justice in March 2004.  Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, foreign nationals are to be given access to their consulates to seek legal assistance.  Because they were denied that access, the ICJ ruled that those cases had to be reconsidered.

Ok, so at this point, I have to say that if our government has ratified a treaty, and that treaty protects Americans abroad, then our government should follow that same treaty’s reciprocal protections for foreign nationals in the U.S.  The 51 Mexican nationals were denied access to their consulate.  That was a mistake.  How can that be rectified?  If the remedy, under our treaty obligation, is to grant those foreign nationals a reconsideration of their cases, then that is what should be done.  If meeting our treaty obligation in the Medellin case means his death sentence could be overturned, then that should be a lesson for prosecutors to learn from.

It’s at this point that things get a little more complicated.  There are many intriguing aspects to this case, but I want to simply focus on the Bush Administration part in it.  In February 2005, Bush issued a memorandum ordering the Texas courts to follow the ICJ’s ruling. When Medellin’s habeas corpus petition was before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Bush Administration argued that it is the sole authority of the executive to decide if the U.S. has to comply with international law, and that in this case, the U.S. should – meaning that the Texas court should reconsider Medellin’s conviction and sentence.  By doing so, the administration joined, among others, anti-death penalty advocates from the U.S. and around the world.

(Here’s where other aspects come into play – the irony of George W. Bush siding with human rights organizations in a capital punishment case – remember what he allegedly said about the Carla Fay Tucker case – and the Supreme Court’s passing the buck on making a decision.)

The Supreme Court sent all of the cases back to the state courts.  Before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Bush Administration made the same argument it had earlier.  What gets me is the posture of the administration.  The way I see it, Bush believes he alone can decide when our government acknowledges anything in the international realm.  In this case, Bush chose to recognize the ICJ’s ruling (in other words, he didn’t bow to pressure from human rights groups or the international community – no – remember Bush is The Decider).

Well, it looks like Bush wasn’t very persuasive back “home” here in Texas, or perhaps he forgot to get John Cornyn to explain to his fellow Texas jurist just how important it is that Bush never lose because the Texas court not only ruled against Bush’s side, but it also ruled that Bush had exceeded his authority.  My next step is to research how the other 50 cases go.

This is Strange

There are several different angles I could approach this from, but I’ll start by giving credit where it is due.  Jason commented here and it was a post on his blog that started me on this topic.

Anyone who’s lived in Houston for more than ten years remembers the horrible murders of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena.  Would you then be surprised to see the Bush administration intercede on the behalf of one of the men who has been convicted of those murders? The man seemed to have a morbid competition with his brother Jeb there for a while to see who could execute the most.   Why the change of heart?  Why the bending to international pressure now?

I am against the death penalty.  I have always been.  I haven’t directly stated why on this blog, but I hope that my posts about torture would lead one to see that is the case.  I have very specific ideas about the death penalty and about prisons.  Give me a little time and I will outline them very clearly.  For the purposes of this post, I acknowledge that the attorneys for the defendant Medellin are looking for a way to keep him alive — not for a way to have him released.  It is a crappy job.  However, as long as the death penalty exists in this state, it is what attorneys must do.  The situation would be very different if the state didn’t kill people.

The other side of this is why the Bush administration decided to back Medellin and apparently lose in an all Republican Texas Supreme Court.

I’m still reading about this and don’t have any specific answers.