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Texas Executes Mexican National despite Unresolved Vienna Convention Claim

On January 22, 2014, Texas executed Edgar Arias Tamayo, 46, for the 1994 murder of Houston police officer Guy Gaddis despite an unresolved claim of a Vienna Convention violation.

As applied to Tamayo, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations required law enforcement officials to inform him of his right to have the Mexican consulate informed of his arrest so they could help him hire an attorney and prepare a defense. This was not done.

Various states have a history of ignoring the requirements of the Vienna Convention. This led to Mexico to file a lawsuit against the United States in the International Court of Justice (also known as the World Court) involving over 50 Mexican citizens on deaths rows throughout the U.S., including Tamayo. The resulting 2004 Avena decision ordered the U.S. to review and reconsider each conviction and sentence to determine whether the Vienna Convention violation rendered the criminal trial unfair. Most states did just that, but Texas balked, filing a federal lawsuit claiming that then-President George W. Bush could not enforce the World Court ruling on the states without an act of Congress. The Supreme Court agreed with Texas. These decisions were previously reported in PLN.

Texas has already executed two Mexican citizens who were names in the Avena decision—Jose Ernesto Medellin in 2008 and Humberto Leal Garcia in 2011. However, it did give them a cursory review of their Vienna Convention claims in the state courts before executing them. Tamayo is the first of the prisoners named in Avena who was not given any kind of review of his Vienna Convention claims. This occurred despite the attempts of several senior Mexican politicians, numerous human rights organizations, and multiple ambassadors from various countries and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry to intervene on his behalf, asking Texas to grant review of the Vienna Convention violation.

The Vienna Convention claim was not the only unsettled claim Tamayo had. After his trial, it was discovered that he had been examined and determined to be mentally ill, brain damaged and to possess and IQ of 67. A recent Supreme Court ruling declared the execution of the mentally retarded unconstitutional.

Texas remains the only state to flaunt the Avena decision.

"Some states have dealt with Avena defendants in a manner consistent with both the ICJ's judgment and their own judicial and legal process," a State Department spokesman said. "To date, Texas is the only state to execute Mexican national subject to Avena."

"In their drive the execute Mr. Tamayo, the governor and the [Texas] 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," said a statement released by Tamayo’s attorneys, Maurie Levin and Sandra Babcock, who urged Congress to enact legislation to implement the Avena judgment.


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