Published On: Thu, Jan 23rd, 2014

Mexican Edgar Tamayo executed in Texas, overriding objections from the U.S. State Department and international diplomatic pressure

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Texas executed Mexican citizen Edgar Tamayo on Wednesday January 22nd at 6 pm, for killing a police officer, despite the objections from the U.S. State Department as well as international diplomatic pressure.

The Supreme Court rejected appeals Wednesday night, clearing the way for officials at the state prison at Huntsville, Texas, to execute Edgar Tamayo, 46, for the 1994 slaying of Houston police officer Guy Gaddis, 24.

Tamayo died after receiving a lethal injection.

Texas officials rejected diplomatic pleas to halt the execution. His attorneys had argued that Tamayo was mentally impaired and ineligible for execution and was tried without assistance from the Mexican government.

Tamayo’s attorneys and the Mexican government contended Tamayo’s case was tainted because he wasn’t advised under an international agreement that he could get legal help from his home nation after his arrest in 1994. Legal assistance guaranteed under that treaty could have uncovered evidence to contest the capital murder charge or provide evidence to keep Tamayo off death row, Mexican officials contended.

Protestors urge Texan Authorities not to execute Tamayo

Protestors urge Texan Authorities not to execute Tamayo (Photograph: Richard Carson/Reuters)

Earlier, Secretary of State John Kerry asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to delay Tamayo’s punishment, saying it “could impact the way American citizens are treated in other countries.”
The State Department repeated its position Wednesday, hours before Texas proceeded with the execution.

It was the first execution of 2014 in what is the nation’s most active state for capital punishment. Last year, Texas executed 16 people.

The Supreme Court considered and rejected a pair of appeals, one regarding Tamayo’s mental state and the other on the assertion that the Mexican consulate had not learned of Tamayo until he went to trial.

Tamayo’s lawyers, Sandra Babcock and Maurie Levin, issued a statement after the Supreme Court’s ruling.

“Today, Texas has once more shown its utter disregard for the rule of law and the United States’ treaty commitments. In their drive to execute Mr. Tamayo, the Governor and the Attorney General willfully ignored promises they made to our nation’s leaders that they would ensure review of Mr. Tamayo’s consular rights violation,” they said.
“The execution of Mr. Tamayo violates the United States’ treaty commitments, threatens the nation’s foreign policy interests, and undermines the safety of all Americans abroad,” Babcock and Levin also said.

The two went to the Supreme Court after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said an appeal this week renewing an earlier contention that Tamayo was mentally impaired and ineligible for execution was filed too late.

The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected Tamayo’s request for clemency, as had Gov. Rick Perry.

“It doesn’t matter where you’re from,” Perry spokeswoman Lucy Nashed said. “If you commit a despicable crime like this in Texas, you are subject to our state laws, including a fair trial by jury and the ultimate penalty.”

Edgar Tamayo

Edgar Tamayo

Gaddis, who had been on the force for two years, was driving Tamayo and another man from a robbery scene when evidence showed the officer was shot three times in the head and neck with a pistol Tamayo had concealed in his pants. The car crashed, and Tamayo fled on foot but was captured a few blocks away, still in handcuffs, carrying the robbery victim’s watch and wearing the victim’s necklace.

At least two other inmates in circumstances similar to Tamayo’s were executed in Texas in recent years.

The Mexican government said in a statement this week it “strongly opposed” the execution and said failure to review Tamayo’s case and reconsider his sentence would be “a clear violation by the United States of its international obligations.”

Tamayo was in the U.S. illegally and had a criminal record in California, where he had served time for robbery and was paroled, according to prison records.

“Not one person is claiming the suspect didn’t kill Guy Gaddis,” Ray Hunt, president of the Houston Police Officers’ Union, said. “He had the same rights as you and I would have.

“This has been looked at, heard, examined and it’s time for the verdict of the jury to be carried out.”

Tamayo was among more than four dozen Mexican nationals awaiting execution in the U.S. when the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands, ruled in 2004 they hadn’t been advised properly of their consular rights. The Supreme Court subsequently said hearings urged by the international court in those inmates’ cases could be mandated only if Congress implemented legislation to do so.

“Unfortunately, this legislation has not been adopted,” the Mexican foreign ministry acknowledged.

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Death Penalty Information Center

The Death Penalty Information Center  (DPIC) is a national non-profit organization serving the media and the public with analysis and information on issues concerning capital punishment. Founded in 1990, the Center promotes informed discussion of the death penalty by preparing in-depth reports, conducting briefings for journalists, and serving as a resource to those working on this issue. The Center releases an annual report on the death penalty, highlighting significant developments and featuring the latest statistics.

DPIC records suggest Tamayo is the 29th foreign national to be executed in the US since capital punishment was reinstated in 1976 and that only one was properly informed of his consular rights. As of 2 July last year there were 143 foreign nationals from 37 countries on death row in the US, according to the DPIC – 61 from Mexico. The next scheduled execution of a foreign national is also in Texas. Edgardo Cubas, a Honduran, is set to be put to death on 29 May.
As well as questioning the fairness of the Texas legal system, Tamayo’s lawyers argued that the 46-year-old did not receive a specific review of his case as was mandated a decade ago by the United Nations’ main judicial body.

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2004, in what is often called the Avena decision, that about 50 Mexicans on death row in the US, including Tamayo, had not been properly informed of their consular rights. The court ordered the US to conduct a review and reconsideration of each conviction and sentence in order to determine whether the outcomes had been unfairly prejudiced by the failure to adhere to the Vienna Convention.

Then-US president George W Bush told each state to comply with the international court, but Texas successfully argued before the US supreme court in 2008 that the presidential order was not binding given the absence of legislation from Congress.

Eduardo Medina Mora, the Mexican ambassador to the US, said in a letter to Kerry last September that the failure to provide Avena reviews “has become and could continue to be a significant irritant in the relations between our two countries”. Capital punishment was officially outlawed in Mexico in 2005, though the country had not put anyone to death since 1961.

Lucy Nashed, a spokeswoman for Perry, said last week: “It doesn’t matter where you’re from – if you commit a despicable crime like this in Texas, you are subject to our state laws, including a fair trial by jury and the ultimate penalty.”

Tamayo is the third Mexican referenced in Avena to be executed by Texas, following Jose Ernesto Medellin in 2008 and Humberto Leal Garcia in 2011. He is the first not to have received any review of his claim to have been denied consular rights.

The statement from Babcock and Levin criticised both state and federal politicians.
“In their drive to execute Mr Tamayo, the governor and the attorney-general willfully ignored promises they made to our nation’s leaders that they would ensure review of Mr Tamayo’s consular rights violation. They also steamrolled over evidence that Mr Tamayo is a person with mental retardation whose execution will violate the United States constitution,” it read.

“It is shameful and tragic that Mr Tamayo will pay the price for Congress’ failure to enact legislation to implement the Avena judgment of the International Court of Justice. It is now imperative that Congress promptly act to ensure passage of legislation that will bring the US into compliance with its international legal commitments and provide judicial review to the Mexican nationals who remain on death row in violation of their consular rights.

Police records show that Gaddis arrested Tamayo for robbery and was taking him to jail when Tamayo pulled out a pistol that had gone unnoticed and shot the 24-year-old officer three times in the back of the head. Tamayo was quickly captured after trying to flee.

The controversial execution of Dennis McGuire using an experimental drug combination in Ohio last week has placed fresh scrutiny on the lethal injection process. Tamayo was the fourth man on Texas’s death row to be injected with a single drug made by a compound pharmacy near Houston. The state began using compounded pentobarbital last year after its previous supply of the drug expired.

Texas used a three-drug cocktail until the summer of 2012, but, like other states, has been forced to change its protocols after pharmaceutical companies, most notably in Europe, stopped supplying drugs for use in executions.
Texas is the nation’s most active death-penalty state, with 509 executions since 1976. It carried out 16 in 2013 out of a nationwide total of 39 and has another eight scheduled between now and the end of May.

Associated Press

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