Thursday, March 20, 2014

Mexican Human Rights Commission gearing up for next Texas execution

Convicted Tamaulipas murderer, rapist has a date with the death chamber in less than three weeks, while litigation continues on multiple fronts

*Updated Apr. 7*
Guadalajara -
For the second time in less than 90 days, Mexico is asking Texas state officials to halt the pending execution of one of its citizens.

Ramiro Hernández Llanas, 44, is scheduled to die in Huntsville on April 9. Prosecutors say that on Oct. 15, 1997, Hernández broke into the home of a rancher in remote Kerr County, killing the man and then tying up his wife and raping her. Hernández was the rancher's hired hand.

His bifurcated trial was moved to another county because of the intense feelings the case generated in the venue where events occurred. After convicting Hernández of murder and rape, a state court jury deliberated only a few minutes before sentencing him to death in the second phase.

Hernández is a Mexican citizen who was born and raised in Tamaulipas state, which borders Texas.

Raúl Plascencia Villanueva, the chairman of Mexico's National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), has written a letter to Texas Governor Rick Perry, asking him to commute the sentence or grant an indefinite stay while further litigation is undertaken on Hernández's behalf.

The legal issue presented in the case is exactly the same as was raised by another Mexican who was executed by Texas on Jan. 22. Attorneys for Édgar Tamayo Arias argued that his rights as a foreign national were violated when Texas authorities failed to notify Mexican diplomatic officials of his arrest for the murder of a Houston police officer in January 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..

Perry denied Tamayo's request for a stay or a new hearing in his case, telling his representatives, "It doesn't matter where you are from. If you commit this kind of despicable crime in Texas, you will be held accountable to our laws, including the maximum punishment." Texas denies Mexican governor's appeal for death stay in Édgar Tamayo case.

In 2004 and again in 2009, the International Court of Justice (ICJ), the judicial branch of the U.N., ordered the U.S. to grant Tamayo and the other condemned Mexicans new hearings on the limited question of whether the failure of state authorities to notify Mexican consular officials prejudiced their defenses during pretrial and trial proceedings. But in its 2008 decision, the U.S. Supreme Court said the ICJ ruling would only be binding on American states if the U.S. Congress formally adopted it by enabling legislation, something which Congress still has not done. Absent special circumstances, the U.S. Supreme Court cannot directly control what state courts do in most criminal cases, since state tribunals operate under independent rules of procedure.

Chairman Villanueva said he has also written to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles (BPP), reminding its members of the ICJ decisions and that court's conclusion that on repeated occasions Texas authorities have violated Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, signed by the U.S., Mexico and dozens of other countries decades ago. The BPP rarely recommends clemency or commutation of death sentences, a legal prerequisite before the governor can act.

Hernández' mother has not seen him for years, and may not before his sentence is carried out

Villanueva noted that Hernández was found to have an I.Q. of 70. If he is executed on April 9, 2014 will mark the first occasion when two Mexican nationals have been put to death in the same year. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and officials of the Obama administration have implored Texas to comply with the ICJ rulings, the second one of which noted that its mandate "must be performed unconditionally; non-performance of it constitutes internationally wrongful conduct." Former president George W. Bush did likewise, but the federal government is powerless to stop a state execution.

Approximately 60 Mexican citizens are on death row in U.S. states - all for murder - and three in Malaysia for narcotics offenses. Kuala Lumpur court affirms Mexican brothers' death sentence.

As of Feb. 6, 234 persons were awaiting execution in Texas, including 12 Mexican nationals. Some have been in custody for up to three decades.

Apr. 2 - Ramiro Hernández Llanas got good legal news and bad legal news this week. On Monday the U.S. Supreme Court rejected his latest appeal based on his low level of intellectual functioning, and on Texas' failure to comply with the 2004 International Court of Justice ruling. A majority of the justices relied on the same points announced in a related case six years ago. But in a separate proceeding a federal judge in Texas today granted Hernández' motion for a stay of execution, based upon his attorneys' claim that the lethal injection procedure the state plans to follow would constitute cruel and unusual punishment, prohibited by the U.S. Constitution. The problem is this:

Many states which impose capital punishment are finding it increasingly difficult to locate and purchase the materials needed to carry out death sentences. Most U.S. manufacturers no longer produce the chemicals which were once routinely used for the procedure. European Union countries have been forbidden by their governments to sell any compound to an American purchaser which is intended for lethal injection. Death penalty states have responded by seeking new "designer" drug combinations from small producers, sometimes ordinary commercial pharmacies. Attorneys allege the deadly cocktails have not been thoroughly tested, and could cause a slow death accompanied by considerable pain. In Hernández' case (and similar ones in other states), Texas officials have refused to identify what chemical protocol they intend to follow, and from whom they purchased the drugs. That's why a federal judge today stayed his execution, saying the state cannot execute him until it makes all the relevant details available.. But Texas will file an immediate appeal, and stands a good chance of getting the stay overturned, with almost a week left before the Apr. 9 execution date.

Apr. 3 - The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, based in New Orleans, has already overturned the stay of execution granted in a companion case which was being litigated along with Hernández'. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld that reversal late today and the inmate was put to death. The same result awaits Hernández, whose execution will be back on schedule within the next few days. It is unlikely that anything can save him now, since he has exhausted virtually all of his legal arguments.

Apr. 7 - The Fifth Circuit today rejected Hernández' appeal and vacated the stay of execution issued by a federal judge on Apr. 2. And the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles voted unanimously not to recommend clemency, a prerequisite before the governor could commute the sentence. The Texas Dept. of Corrections thus has the green light to carry out the jury's verdict at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday.

Apr. 9 - Texas executes Ramiro Hernández Llanas, over protests

Jan. 22, 2014 - Mexican national, convicted cop killer, executed in Texas
Dec. 30, 2013 - Mexican on death row asks Peña Nieto, U.S. State Dept. for help

© 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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