Executing Foreigners Texas-Style

“What’s the matter with Texas?” This morning’s Houston Chronicle headlines the news that the Governor of Texas, Rick Perry, has refused to acknowledge an order from the World Court to stay the planned August 5th execution of a Mexican citizen convicted of murder. “The world court has no standing in Texas and Texas is not bound by a ruling or edict from a foreign court,” thundered the governor’s spokesman.

There is little doubt that Jose Ernesto Medellin, a 31-year old from Mexico, was involved in a gruesome crime. But, as a foreign national, he was entitled to have his country’s consulate informed of his arrest under the laws of the Geneva Convention to which the U.S. is a signatory. 51 Mexican citizens held in Texas jails are affected by the World Court’s ruling.


In 2004, the World Court ordered a review of these cases. The following year, President Bush ordered state courts to abide by that ruling but he was overruled the following month by the U.S. Supreme Court which argued that only Congress had the authority to insist on such compliance. Congress needs to act fast.  

Texas pride is a strange thing. National Guard troops take their oaths on the grounds of the Alamo where earlier Texans fought off foreign invaders. Everything in Texas has to be big, so, for example, their state capitol is the largest in the nation, even if it is also one of the ugliest. Signs everywhere beckon you to the “world’s best BBQ,” a title to which many restaurants lay claim but none fulfill. Memphis BBQ is a thousand times better.

But, whether they like or not (and whether the rest of us like it or not) Texans are part of the human race and citizens of the United States. Failure to grant the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention in this case endangers American citizens who might be arrested abroad. Foreign courts could cite Texas’s intransigence to sustain their own disregard for the rights guaranteed by the Geneva Convention. If rights are not reciprocal, they are recognized mostly in the breach.

“The world court don’t mean diddly,” said the father of one of the victims in the crime for which Medellin was convicted. The father of the other victim was even clearer in his motivations: “I believe we’ve been through all the red tape we can go through. It’s time to rock and roll.” Gov. Perry needs to exercise some political courage. (Cardinal DiNardo of Houston and other Catholic leaders in the state should loudly call for him to do so.) He must stand up to this disregard for the law of nations. Instead he is bowing before it. But, Texans won’t be the only ones to remember this Alamo. Somewhere in the mountains of Afghanistan, Al-Qaeda’s leaders are celebrating this opposition to Western civilization and one of it’s finest achievements, the Geneva Conventions.

Michael Sean Winters

Comments are automatically closed two weeks after an article's initial publication. See our comments policy for more.
9 years 10 months ago
Jose Medellin is the first inmate who is scheduled to be executed on August 5th. 15 years ago two teenage girls were trying to take a short cut home so they could get in under curfew. They stumbled on to Jose and his gang clicking in a new member. Ofcourse they did what any self respecting gang would do, they brutaly Gang raped them and strangled them with a shoe lace and left there bodies in the high grass for their parents to find a week later. You seem to see us (Texans) as some kind of drunkin redneck uncle that your embaresed of. You think we are intent on killing him because we are barbaric and we want to prove a point. You seemed to be more enlightened and objective and see this all as some legal chess game, but when I run by the plaques in the park where this happened, it feels like more then that. The fathers are all over the news hear pleading for Texas to stick to it’s guns and give them justice, I hope they get it. Mexico (and the U.S.) is full of good hard working Mexican Citizens who need help from their goverment. This “man” is not one of them.
9 years 10 months ago
Question? Mr. Winters have you read the Geneva Conventions and do you have a better way?
9 years 10 months ago
Mr. Winters: You are correct that the state of Texas should follow the Geneva Convention regarding the foreign nationals that are held in its prisons. But you do the issue no service with your gratuitous and uninformed opinions and generalizations about Texas and Texans. Are you an expert on ''Texas pride?'' Do you think any of the rest of us care that you consider the state capitol ''one of the ugliest in the nation,'' or that ''Memphis BBQ is a thousand times better?'' Please stick to making your case with reason argument and evidence instead of hyperbolic stereotyping.
9 years 10 months ago
Mr Winters, wow! You do realize Mr Medellin has been in this country since preschool? If he is a "foreign national" it is a semantic distinction only. Second, it isn’t the Geneva Convention, it’s the Vienna Convention. And the Supreme Court has ruled that ICJ decisions are binding on Texas. (Here’s a link so you can read the Supreme Court decision: http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/06-984.ZS.html) Third, your, rather idiotic, claim that Texas’ disregard of the ICJ’s decision might endanger American lives is nothing but fear-mongering. It is already a fact that no other country recognizes ICJ decisions as binding on domestic courts. That doesn’t even begin to address the silliness of the argument that because we do something someone else might do the same thing. Whether we recognize the treaty’s provisions as domestically binding or not has no causal relation to any other court’s decision. As a case in point, let’s look at you, almost offensive, example. You strangely bring up Al Qaeda. Yeah, our recognition of the Vienna Convention and/or ICJ decisions would surely alter their activities. Give me a break! I will repeat it, in case it got lost in what went before: no country which signed the Vienna Conventions views ICJ decisions as binding in domestic courts. None. Not a single one. I have a final suggestion. When you disagree with someone and wish to make a point, do so rationally, distorting facts, fallacious arguments and insulting a group’s culture only make you look ignorant.
9 years 10 months ago
It would be nice to see Mr Winters' disgust directed at person who committed this evil atrocity against two teenage girls, rather then a Governor upholding the laws of the State. I think Mr Winters is ignorant regarding where the evil here lies.


Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Las palabras de Jesús fueron mucho más que doctrina humanista, porque fueron revelación.
Among both listeners and staff, one can find those who were born and raised in the United States or moved here at a young age and those who are new to the country; those who have papers and those who do not or whose parents do not.
Jim McDermottMay 24, 2018
Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh and his disciples at Rajneeshpuram (Credit: Netflix)
Sometimes the best way to understand a phenomenon is to look at its parody.
José DueñoMay 24, 2018
Chris Rock (photo: Netflix)
“Tambourine” should be mandatory viewing in all diocesan Pre-Cana programs.
Jake MartinMay 24, 2018