Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Dallas Morning News: Gov. Perry should halt this execution

Dallas Morning News has called on Gov. Rick Perry to stop execution of José Medellín in order to protect Americans abroad.

All eyes are on Gov. Rick Perry regarding the Aug. 5 execution date for José Medellín, a Mexican who confessed to the 1993 gang rape and murder of two Houston teenage girls.

Although this newspaper opposes the death penalty, no one doubts the governor's prerogative under the law to permit the execution of convicted murderers. In this case, though, an international court has ruled that Mr. Medellín deserves a judicial review because he was denied his right to a Mexican consular visit, as required under a U.S.-signed treaty.

The international court's ruling can't be enforced, and the Supreme Court has upheld the state's authority to proceed. But that doesn't mean Mr. Perry is required to proceed. For the good of the country, we join Attorney General Michael Mukasey and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in urging him to grant a stay of execution.

The State Department calculated that 4,456 Americans were arrested abroad in 2006, up from 3,614 in 2005. The bulk of those arrests occurred in Mexico. For an American sitting in a filthy, dark jail cell in a foreign land, it's easy to be overwhelmed by hopelessness. One thing makes the nightmare bearable: the guaranteed visit from an American consular official.

Many foreign governments permit this visit because they know that the full weight of American diplomatic pressure will come to bear on them if they do not.

Yes, Mr. Perry can flex the state's judicial muscle and show the world that Texans don't bow to the whims of some distant, obscure international court. But it would send an unequivocal message to all foreign governments – especially Mexico – that this country doesn't stand by its promises. They can justifiably point to Mr. Perry's example if they decide not to be bound by this or other important treaties in the future.

This is a heavy weight to put on one man's shoulders, but Mr. Perry, your decision could set the course for international events of far greater importance than the fate of a single, confessed killer. It's time to put the interests of this country and its citizens first and halt Mr. Medellín's execution.

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