By his second term, even President Bush began to shift policies hoping to repair our worldly image. Perhaps the most overt example was his advocacy on behalf of the consular notification rights of Jose Medellin, a Mexican national who raped and killed two teenage girls and is scheduled to be executed next week. The President maintains authorities should have notified Medellin of his right to contact the Mexican consulate. As described in an editorial from the Waco Tribune Herald ("Texas should honor treaties," July 29):
Many folks think of Waco as a parochial place, but this opinion piece promotes a worldly wise perspective: Anyone who's traveled extensively in countries with "questionable legal systems" will appreciate the importance of consular notification rights. I've traveled a lot in Mexico and Turkey over the years, for example, and both are places where I'd be pretty darn scared to be arrested without access to the American consulate. (Take a look, for example, at recently revealed interrogation techniques used by Mexican police.)
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals defied Bush, the World Court and international opinion by refusing to hear the Medellin case.
Although Article VI of the Constitution says that “all treaties made . . . under the authority of the United States shall be the supreme law of the land, and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby,” the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 6-3 that since Congress failed to provide a method to implement the treaty, Texas does not have to abide by the treaty.
Even if the effort in Congress succeeds in ensuring that the treaty is honored nationwide, it will not come before Medellin’s Aug. 5 execution date.
The case against Medellin is strong. Nothing will be lost if it is reconsidered in line with the treaty.
A lot could be lost, however, if other countries with questionable legal systems follow the Texas example by ignoring the treaty and refusing to allow Americans arrested in foreign countries from consulting with the American Consulate for legal assistance.
The Medellin case needs to be reconsidered.
Though I'll be surprised if it happens, I agree with the Tribune editorialist that the Board of Pardons and Parole and Gov. Perry should "quickly intervene." If Texans want our own rights to notify the US government upon arrest respected by foreign criminal courts, we simply must reciprocate. Governor Perry and the parole board should stay the execution at least until Congress has time to act. There's simply no need to risk giving other countries an excuse to disdain America or her citizens' rights.
UPDATE: Says the Dallas News in its own editorial, "For the good of the country, we join Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in urging [Governor Perry] to grant a stay of execution."