Let’s drill down a bit to examine what happened last night, when the Supreme Court issued a per curium opinion denying Jose Medellin’s request for a stay of execution. Four justices dissented from the opinion. Medellin, whose appointment with the needle was delayed while the high court deliberated, was put to death at approximately 10 p.m., Central Time.
Medellin applied for a stay to Justice Antonin Scalia, who referred the matter to the entire court. Five votes were needed to issue a stay, and apparently there were only four. Medellin’s request was based on the fact that Congress was working to implement a decision by the International Court of Justice, an arm of the United Nations, mandating that Mexican-born defendants like Medellin are given the right to consult with the Mexican government upon their arrest and that his, and the convictions of 50 other Mexicans on death row in American, must be reviewed. That right comes as a result of a treaty, the Vienna Convention, to which the United States is a signatory.
In its unsigned opinion, the court’s majority said Congress had had more than enough time to implement the court’s 2004 decision. It also, interestingly, pointed to the lack of objection to Medellin’s execution by the Justice Department, even though the State Department and several members of Congress urged Texas to postpone Medellin’s execution, as a reason to deny the stay.
Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court denied Jose Medellin’s request for a stay of execution.
He likely will be executed at any moment this evening.
Four justices dissented from the per curiam decision: Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer and David Souter.
Read the order and dissents here: Medellin order
Lawyers for convicted murderer Jose Ernesto Medellin are awaiting word from the Supreme Court whether his execution in Texas by lethal injection, set for this evening at 7 pm CST, will be stayed.
Last night, they filed their final brief to Justice Antonin Scalia, who can decide whether to issue the stay himself, decide to do nothing, or refer the matter to the entire court.
As noted here earlier, the issue is whether putting Medellin to death will violate his constitutional rights, given that Texas has been ordered by an international court at the United Nations to review the circumstances of his conviction and sentence. An effort is underway in Congress to craft legislation responding to that court’s order.
But Texas has never recognized the international court’s authority and its view found support in the Supreme Court last term. The International Court of Justice ruled that Texas had violated a treaty known as the Vienna Convention, which 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.