Medellin asks Court to stay execution

Lawyers for convicted Texas murderer Jose Medellin filed an emergency application with the Supreme Court Friday in an attempt to stave off his execution, scheduled for Aug. 5. 

The application was made to Justice Antonin Scalia, who oversees death penalty appeals from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.

As Writ Large noted earlier in the week, the U.S. government has been attempting to convince Texas officials to delay Medellin’s execution until it can satisfy obligations arising from a judgment by the International Court of Justice that Medellin and 50 other Mexican-born defendants on Death Row in America were denied the opportunity to consult with the Mexican government prior to their convictions and sentences.

The application filed Friday says:

There is no dispute that if Texas executes Mr. Medellin in these circumstances, Texas would cause the United States irreparably to breach treaty commitments made on behalf of the United States as a whole and thereby compromise U.S interests that both this Court and the President have described as compelling.

The Vienna Convention, to which the U.S. is a party, requires that foreign nationals arrested in a signatory country be given the right to meet with officials from their representative consulate. That was not done in Medellin’s case.  Mexico complained to the International Court of Justice, an adjudicatory arm of the United Nations. 

Last term, the Supreme Court ruled that President Bush had overstepped his executive authority in ordering Texas officials to comply with the international court directive that Medellin’s death sentence and those of the other 50 Mexican nationals be independently reviewed. Efforts are now underway in Congress to adopt legislation that would provide a mechanism for those reviews. 

Medillin’s lawyers are also asking for the Court to take the case up again, this time to determine whether Medellin’s constitutional rights will be violated if he is executed before Congress has a chance to pass legislation determining how the U.S. can comply with the requirements of the international court’s ruling.

Scalia can grant the stay of execution if he decides there is a “reasonable probability” that four justices would vote to grant certiorari in the case or if he decides Medellin could suffer “irreparable harm” if the stay is not granted. 

He can also refer the matter to the entire court, where it would take the vote of five justices to grant a stay. 

You can read the new petition for certiorari here: Medellin-08-5573

Interestingly, the Supreme Court’s decision in Medellin was 6-3, with Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and David Souter in dissent. Justice John Paul Stevens concurred in the judgement but wrote a separate opinion in which he expressed some sympathy for the dissenters. Could Stevens provide that fourth vote to take the matter up again?

You can read that decision here.


1 Comment

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One response to “Medellin asks Court to stay execution

  1. Pingback: Mexican Medellin set to die in hours « Writ Large

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