WASHINGTON – Jose Ernesto Medellin, whose death row appeal provoked an international dispute over U.S. treaty obligations, was executed in Texas on Tuesday for his role in the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston 15 years ago.
The Mexican-born former gang member was pronounced dead at 9:57 p.m. CDT after he was given a lethal injection in the Texas death chamber in Huntsville. The victims’ families were on hand to watch the execution.
“I’m sorry my actions caused you pain. I hope this brings you the closure that you seek. Never harbor hate,” Medellin, 33, told spectators.
Medellin’s attorneys exhausted their hopes for leniency when Gov. Rick Perry and the U.S. Supreme Court turned down separate requests for a stay of execution.
The case became entangled in international politics over Medellin’s assertion that he was denied his right to contact the Mexican consulate after his arrest. Under a 1963 treaty signed by the United States and 165 other countries, citizens from any of the participating nations are entitled to contact a consular official “without delay” if arrested overseas.
An unlikely cast of legal allies, including the Bush administration and much of the world’s diplomatic community, embraced Medellin’s position, warning that the United States would be accused of violating the treaty if Medellin were executed without a hearing on his consular access claim. The case pitted President Bush against his home state of Texas.
Medellin and five other members of a gang called the Black and Whites were convicted of raping and killing Jennifer Lee Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16, after the girls stumbled into a gang initiation while hurrying home from a party.
Witnesses said Medellin later bragged about the assault and described using a shoelace to strangle one of the girls because he didn’t have a gun. Medellin, then 19, also “put his foot on her throat because she would not die,” according to a state legal brief.
Perry accepted the recommendation of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles to reject Medellin’s request to delay the execution or commute the sentence to life. The board approved the recommendation on a 7-0 vote Monday.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General Michael Mukasey asked the Texas governor “to take the steps necessary” to enable the United States to comply with its treaty obligations. “Put simply, the United States seeks the help of the State of Texas,” the Cabinet members told Perry in a June 17 letter.
The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City warned of possible protests to “incite anti-U.S. sentiment” in response to the execution.