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Texas Violates International Law, Again, in Execution of Mexican National

In violation of international law, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice has executed a Mexican national with an IQ of 67, placing Americans in danger of being denied fair legal treatment abroad.

The January 22, 2014, execution of convicted murderer Edgar Arias Tamayo, 46, was the third of a Mexican national in Texas since 2008, despite warnings from Mexican officials that doing so would violate U.S. treaty obligations.

According to the Mexican government, Tamayo was not notified of his right to legal assistance from the Mexican consulate upon his arrest, which is a violation of Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Neither were Jose Medellin nor Humberto Leal Garcia, two Mexican nationals who were both convicted of rape and murder and executed in Texas in 2008 and 2011, respectively.

In fact, the Mexican government filed charges against the U.S. in 2003 in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) naming 51 Mexican nationals facing the death penalty—including Tamayo, Medellin and Leal Garcia—who had not been notified of their rights. After the ICJ ruled in Mexico's favor in what is widely known as the "Avena decision," then-President George W. Bush attempted to force Texas to review and reconsider their convictions, but was ignored by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and state Attorney General Greg Abbott.

In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Medellin v. Texas that, while the Avena decision is a binding international obligation, no president can force states to comply with the ICJ's ruling without federal legislation enacted by Congress. Medellin was executed shortly thereafter.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry wrote to Perry in September 2013, requesting a stay of execution for Tamayo, who was convicted of shooting a Houston police officer three times in the back of the head in 1994.

Tamayo's lawyers say that, after Mexico learned of his arrest by chance just a week before Tamayo's trial, a consular investigation showed that he was "intellectually disabled" and brain-damaged. If they had known sooner, Tamayo's lawyers argue, they could have presented a stronger defense in favor of a life sentence rather than the death penalty.

"I want to be clear: I have no reason to doubt the facts of Mr. Tamayo's conviction, and as a former prosecutor, I have no sympathy for anyone who would murder a police officer," Kerry wrote to Perry. "This is a process issue I am raising because it could impact the way American citizens are treated in other countries."

Again, Perry and Abbott ignored those concerns.

"It doesn't matter where you're from," Perry spokesperson Lucy Nashed told the Associated Press after Tamayo's execution by lethal injection. "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."

Sources: Foreign Policy,,,

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