Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Mexican national, convicted cop killer, executed in Texas

Immortalized by a norteño band, his case is viewed very differently in Mexico

Guadalajara -
Édgar Tamayo Arias, the latest focus of a long running legal battle between Mexico and the United States over the rights of Mexican citizens arrested on U.S. territory, was executed late today by the Texas Dept. of Criminal Justice at Huntsville.

The former Morelos state resident was pronounced dead about 9:30 p.m. In the past 24 hours federal and state courts in Texas, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans and the U.S. Supreme Court all refused to halt Tamayo's execution, which was by lethal injection. The execution was delayed more than three hours beyond its scheduled 6:00 p.m. start time while the Supreme Court considered Tamayo's final application for a stay. The nine justices denied it on a 6-3 vote.

Tamayo, 46, spent the last 20 years on death row. He was convicted of the 1994 murder of Houston police officer Guy Gaddis, 24, who arrested Tamayo outside of a nightclub and was transporting him to jail when the bizarre crime unfolded.

Tamayo was handcuffed in the rear of Gaddis' vehicle, but prosecutors contended he managed to pull out a concealed handgun which the officer had failed to discover and shot Gaddis three times in the back of the head, killing him instantly. The car crashed into a house and Tamayo, only slightly inured, kicked out a window and fled. He was captured nearby, still in restraints. Tamayo confessed shortly after he was arrested, but later recanted his statement and professed innocence. The extraordinary facts of the case are set out in a Jan 15. letter from the Harris County District Attorney to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, objecting to Tamayo's petition for clemency (copy below). The Board denied clemency this morning.

Tamayo's attorneys filed numerous appeals over the years in an effort to save him, but none gained traction. His main legal argument was that his rights as a foreign national were violated when Texas authorities failed to notify Mexican diplomatic officials of his arrest in 1994. The same argument has been raised by dozens of Mexicans under death sentence in state courts across the United States, but a 2008 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which indirectly applied to all rejected that contention. Mexican's approaching date with Texas execution chamber poses international risks for U.S..

Tamayo's case was the subject of intense sympathetic press coverage in this country in recent days, all of it downplaying the facts of the crime and focusing instead on the refusal of Texas prosecutors to abide by a 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruling which declared Tamayo and other Mexican death row defendants were entitled to new hearings in their cases.

On Sunday Mexico's Foreign Ministry noted that if Tamayo were executed, it would be the "third case in which the United States clearly violated its international obligations under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations." Two other Mexican citizens were executed by Texas in cases which involved the same legal issue, one in August 2008 and the other in July 2011. "Compliance with the Convention's due process provisions is critical for the protection of every accused person, including U.S. nationals who travel or live abroad," said the ministry in a formal statement last weekend.

Many international organizations this week implored Texas to delay the execution and give Tamayo the special hearing ordered by the ICJ a decade ago, including Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Yesterday the U.S. State Dept. did likewise, warning that the Vienna Convention rights of U.S. citizens in other countries could be at risk. In the end it was all for naught. Tamayo was convicted in state court and Washington was legally powerless to intervene.

Édgar Tamayo entered the United States illegally several years before he killed officer Gaddis. He had served time in California for robbery before being paroled there. It is unclear why he was not deported to Mexico after his release from prison.

Tamayo's remains will be repatriated to Mexico for burial in his home state of Morelos.

TDCJ has already scheduled an April execution for yet another Mexican national covered by the ICJ's 2004 ruling. There is no indication Texas officials will handle that case any differently than Tamayo's.

Apr. 9 - Texas executes Ramiro Hernández Llanas, over protests
Jan. 7 - Texas denies Mexican governor's appeal for death stay in Édgar Tamayo case
Dec. 30 - Mexican on death row asks Peña Nieto for help


"Lethal Injection," a CD cut several years ago by Los Tigres del Norte (Tigers of the North), a música norteña band with a following on both sides of the border, found its way onto many Mexican web sites in the days leading up to Tamayo's execution, including a major news network's which contended the ballad was written especially for the condemned man. It begins with these colorful lyrics:

"Los canijos gringos me tienen cautivo siendo inocente, sin tener delito, a mi me aplicaron la pena de muerte - Those stubborn gringos are holding me prisoner, though I'm innocent of any crime, and they've handed me a death sentence." The song is laced with allegations of U.S. racism and legal prejudice against Mexicans.

© MGR 2014. All rights reserved. This article may be cited or briefly quoted with proper attribution or a hyperlink, but not reproduced without permission.

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