Wednesday, July 31, 2002

International Pressure Builds to Halt Controversial Texas Execution

Lydia M.V. Brandt 
The Brandt Law Firm, P.C. 
Richardson, Texas 
(972) 699-7020 Voice; (972) 699-7030 Fax 


July 31, 2002 

International Pressure Builds to Halt Controversial Texas Execution 

High-level diplomatic and legal efforts are intensifying to prevent the execution of Javier Suárez Medina, a Mexican national scheduled to die by lethal injection in Texas on August 14th. The case has reignited an international controversy over the widespread failure of US police to inform arrested foreign citizens of their guaranteed right to seek consular assistance, in violation of a binding treaty ratified by the United States over thirty years ago. New evidence recently uncovered with the assistance of the Mexican government has raised widespread concern that Mr. Suárez Medina’s trial and sentence failed to meet minimum standards of fairness and reliability. 

In a letter to Mr. Suárez Medina’s attorneys released today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced that it had formally requested that the United States government “take precautionary measures to preserve Mr. Suárez Medina’s life pending the Commission's investigation of the allegations in his petition.” 

Established under the authority of the 35-nation Organization of American States (OAS) and based in Washington, D.C., the Commission is responsible for monitoring and enforcing human rights standards throughout the Western Hemisphere. As a full member of the OAS, the United States is expected to comply with the Inter-American Commission’s procedures and rulings, including the issuance of “precautionary measures” required to preserve the basic human rights of petitioners like Mr. Suárez Medina. 

Meanwhile, the Mexican government has sent a diplomatic protest to the State Department, citing the failure of Texas authorities to honor their consular treaty obligations. Mexico’s protest points out that Javier Suárez Medina was sentenced to death after a trial in which his court-appointed attorney failed to develop and present compelling evidence establishing that he merited a lesser sentence. Recent neuropsychological testing sponsored by the Mexican authorities reveal that Mr. Suárez Medina suffers from significant brain impairments, evidence that was never presented to the jury. 

Repeated attempts by Mexican consular officials to assist Javier Suárez Medina following his arrest were frustrated by Texas police, who provided false information regarding his nationality. According to Mexican authorities, 54 Mexican nationals are under sentence of death in the United States, most of whom were never informed of their consular rights at the time of their arrest. 

The Presidency of the European Union has written to the Governor and to the Texas pardons board, expressing concern over the violation of consular rights and calling for clemency. The letter notes that consular assistance in death penalty cases is “essential and may be decisive,” and that the consular treaty also gives US nationals arrested in other countries “ the right to contact the American consulate.” 

Controversy also surrounds the prosecution’s reliance on an alleged prior offense, to convince the jury that Mr. Suárez Medina represented a future danger to society. The prosecution argued that he was responsible for a violent robbery two years earlier. However, investigations since the trial have determined that Mr. Suárez Medina is innocent of that alleged crime and that the jury based its sentencing decision on a mistaken eye witness identification. 

In a recent letter to the Governor of Texas, the American Bar Association objected to this reliance on an unadjudicated crime which Mr. Suárez Medina “was never even charged with committing” and called for the commutation of his death sentence. “We believe carrying out an execution obtained with such unreliable evidence is inconsistent with principles of fundamental fairness and due process,” wrote ABA President Robert E. Hirshon. 

“With each passing day, more new evidence is coming to light that further undermines the fairness of this death sentence,” said Lydia Brandt, the attorney representing Javier Suárez Medina. “If an American citizen abroad faced execution under these conditions, I’m sure the public would demand that our government do everything possible to obtain a just remedy.” 

Lydia M.V. Brandt, counsel to Javier Suarez Medina 
Richardson, TX 
Tel: (972) 699-7020; Fax: (972) 699-7030

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