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Saturday, August 31, 2002

Losing Pan-AM Games: "The execution might have weighed in terms of their thinking", says expert.

"The execution might have weighed in terms of their thinking", says expert.

U.S., Mexico at crossroads 
Editorial Board 

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN 

Saturday, August 31, 2002 

This was the week Mexican President Vicente Fox was supposed to visit Austin and other Texas cities, and meet with President Bush at his Crawford ranch and Gov. Rick Perry at the Governor's Mansion. But Fox abruptly called off his trip after Texas executed convicted killer Javier Suarez Medina, one of Fox's countrymen. Fox had asked that Medina's sentence be commuted to life in prison because Medina had not been afforded his right to contact the Mexican consulate for help following his arrest, as ordered in a 1963 treaty. Mexico has no death penalty. 


When Perry traveled to Mexico this week to woo delegates of the Pan American Games on behalf of San Antonio, he was besieged with questions from reporters about the morality of Texas' death penalty and whether it discriminates against minorities who are disproportionately represented on death row. There are 17 Mexicans on death row. 

American-Statesman editorial writer Alberta Phillips spoke to University of Texas professor Peter Ward regarding the cooling relations between Texas and Mexico. Ward holds the C.B. Smith Sr. Centennial Chair in U.S.-Mexico Relations and is director of UT's Mexican Center at the Teresa Lozano Long Institute of Latin American Studies. The following are excerpts: 

American-Statesman: Texas has executed citizens of Mexico in the past. Why did this execution stir so much furor in Mexico? 

Peter Ward: This time there were real problems tied to the arrest and the lack of access to consular representation in 1989, when the murder took place. 

Also, President Fox was due to visit some 10 days (after the execution) and he personally sought to intervene. Mexico felt that there was sufficient wiggle room for Perry to grant a 30-day stay -- had he wished. Once his overtures and the diplomatic scrambling had been ignored, Fox could hardly just say, "OK, no matter, I'll see you in a fortnight." 

I don't think people in Texas really realized how close to the surface feelings were (in Mexico regarding Suarez's execution), how this really would have been a problem. 

This is the second trip Fox has canceled this summer. He was supposed to come in June, but bowed out over the dispute regarding water rights between Mexico and South Texas farmers. How will relations between Mexico and Texas be affected by those events? 

They will continue to cool. President Fox was able to steal the moral high ground (in protesting Suarez's execution). It was also a way of rapping Texas and the United States across the knuckles for going slow on these bilateral issues so important to Mexico and to Texas. 

There is a growing sense of frustration within Mexico that these issues aren't being addressed. The slap in the face from Fox toward Texas not only concerned the issue of executing (Suarez) but the frustration on the other issues. 

What are the bilateral issues Fox is pushing that affect Mexico and Texas? 

Immigration is the No. 1 issue, particularly the opportunity and access of Mexican workers to work in the United States. It's become more problematic since Sept. 11. 

Other issues include border security, controlling the flow of illegal drugs, controlling the border for entry of terrorists, and NAFTA, implementing it in an equitable way. The United States is in breach of NAFTA's free access of trucks between countries. Prior to Sept. 11, it was about to be dealt with. 

A key thorn in the side of Texas-Mexico relations is also that of water treaties. 

The Suarez execution focused international attention on Texas' death penalty system at a time when San Antonio was vying for the Pan Am Games. Do you think that had anything to do with San Antonio losing the games to Rio de Janeiro? 

I don't know. Whether the Mexican officials used their position to throw support behind the Brazilians, I'd rather doubt it. But in terms of the people who voted . . . the execution might have weighed in terms of their thinking. The execution and the cooling of relations didn't do Texas and San Antonio any good.

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Friday, August 02, 2002

Texas Lawmaker Lon Burnam Asks Officials to Re-examine Death For Juvenile Offenders

Friday, August 2, 2002 
The Dallas Morning News 
======================== 
Execution For Youth Protested 

Lawmaker Asks Officials to Re-examine Death for Juvenile Offenders 

AUSTIN- A Fort Worth lawmaker said on Thursday that 
executing people for crimes they committed as minors 
is "barbaric" and that he will try again to get the 
Legislature to outlaw the practice. 


Rep. Lon Burnam, D-Fort Worth, was joined by Texas 
medical, legal and human rights experts in urging the 
governor, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and 
the judiciary to re-examine the state's use of the 
death penalty in such cases. 

They timed their news conference at the state Capitol 
to focus on the scheduled execution later this month 
of two such offenders - Toronto Patterson of Dallas 
and T.J. Jones of Longview. 

Toronto Patterson, scheduled to die Aug. 28 for the 
1995 murder of his cousin Kimberly Brewer and her two 
young daughters, Jennifer Brewer and Ollie Jean Brown, 
in Dallas, was 17 at the time of the crime. He had no 
prison record. 

T.J. Jones also was 17 when he robbed and killed 
Willard Lewis Davis, 75, of Longview in 1994, 
according to court records. Mr. Jones is to die 
Thursday. 

Texas has executed 11 of 19 juvenile offenders put to 
death in the United States since 1984 and accounts for 
nearly a third of the 81 juvenile offenders on death 
rows across the nation, Rep. Lon Burnam said. 

The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran and 
Pakistan are the only counties outside the United 
States known to have executed juvenile offenders in 
the last three years, he said. 

"Texas stands virtually alone in the world and the 
nation in its continued practice of executing people 
who committed their offenses before age 18," Rep. Lon 
Burnam said. 

A bill he authored to ban such executions passed the 
House but died in the Senate in 2001. He blamed Gov. 
Rick Perry for killing it. 

Kathy Walt, spokeswoman for the governor, said she 
doesn't recall whether the governor had opposed the 
measure. She said the governor supports the current 
law, but would give Rep. Lon Burnam's proposal a 
"serious look" if it passes. 

Governor Perry's Democratic challenger, Tony Sanchez, 
is opposed to changing the law, according to his 
spokesman, Mark Sanders. 

Rep. Lon Burnam said he and other supporters hope to 
"soften" the hearts of Gov. Rick Perry and other 
opponents on the issue. 

University of Texas law professor Jordan Steiker, who 
joined Rep. Lon Burnam at the news conference, said 
the U.S. Supreme Court is moving in the direction of 
outlawing the execution of persons for crimes 
committed as minors. 

"The writing is plainly on the wall, and Texas should 
act now with leadership, rather than follow," Jordan 
Steiker said. 

Dr. Mitch Young, president of The Texas Society of 
Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, said children are not 
as mature as adults and shouldn't be treated the same 
by the legal system. 

"The majority of juvenile offenders do not go on to 
offend as adults," Dr. Mitch Young said. 

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