Thursday, January 23, 2014

Update: Why let international law get in the way of an execution?

Edgar Tamayo had to be executed last night. The State of Texas could not wait any longer to strap him down to a gurney and pump a lethal overdose of a sedative produced by a compounding pharmacy in The Woodlands into his veins.

He was a murderer, you see. He shot and killed a police officer. He was a bad man. And letting him live any longer would be giving folks the message that... well I don't know what message it would have given them.

So we killed him.

After denying him his rights under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, that is. After thumbing our noses at the International Court of Justice, as well. Not that ignoring any edict from the International Court is news since the US just pretends it doesn't exist - unless it's going after someone we don't like.

Mr. Tamayo was arrested and charged with murder in 1994. Under the Vienna Convention he was to have been advised that he had the right to speak to representatives from the Mexican consulate. He wasn't. Mexican officials could have aided in putting together mitigation evidence that might have swayed a jury to sentence him to life behind bars. We'll never know, however, because the US Supreme Court decided that even though a treaty to which we are a signatory says something, it doesn't necessarily mean what it says.

Of course we're talking about the same august body that decided that foreign detainees on a US military installation in a third country have no habeas rights because they might have done something bad, or thought something bad or known someone who did something bad or had dark skin and an Arabic-sounding last name.

Just imagine, if you will, the outrage our government would convey if another country dared to execute an American citizen for a crime committed overseas without letting him or her speak to a consular official after being arrested. Our government wouldn't stand for such a thing. We do believe in the rule of law, after all.

But apparently that rule of law doesn't apply to those with dark skin who weren't born here and speak a foreign language.


Bad Wolf said...

Respectfully, given the facts of the case, I don't think this guy is going to generate ANY sympathy among the public at his death.

So he could have contacted the Consulate and maybe gotten extra legal defense at trial. I don't see how that alters the facts in evidence.

This is a pretty cut and dry case. Again based on the facts I don't think the Innocence Project will be revisiting the case files anytime. I think our outrage is better spent on cases where legal defense would have made a difference and the facts aren't so stark.

Paul B. Kennedy said...

With all due respect, the issue isn't whether or not he was guilty. The issue, as with all death penalty cases, is whether giving the state the power to murder a person is desirable.

Mr. Tomayo was guilty. But Mr. Tomayo was not a US citizen. He was not familiar with the ways in which the criminal (in)justice system work in this country. As such he had the right - based on a treaty the US signed onto - to consult with a member of his nation's consulate after being arrested.

That right was violated. A consular official could have assisted in the procurement of mitigation evidence (such as school and medical records from Mexico). It would have been far easier to acquire any such evidence with the assistance of the consulate than for a defense attorney to attempt to do it.

And, as I've said before, the death penalty cases in which there is no question of guilt are the ones we should fight against the imposition of state-sponsored murder the hardest.

Lee said...

Paul, what seem to be the issue here that TX will not let go of is its own hubris with its own cops. I am often shocked over how precious the egos of cops are to the state. If Mr. Tomayo had killed anyone else with almost any other employment (cashier, salesman, teacher, athletes, driver, janitor) they might have been convinced to LWOP. But the victim was a cop and must be avenged with death in such automatic hubris that the total power of the President, Pope, Chief Justice, Superman, Batman, Royal Family, Hulk, and even God himself could not override. It is a sad fact in TX that cops (judges and prosecutors) deaths must be avenged with another death. That courtesy of hubris is not extended to any other professions.

Peter Duggan said...

I'm not overly familiar with the specific facts of the case but given the focus on the rights of the convicted killer I think it is fair to ask the basic question; Was he asking to speak to his consulate? or even, Did he ask to speak to his consulate and was denied that right? The quick answer was that while he may have had a right to speak to his consulate, one that has traditionally done nothing to help their citizens when accused of crimes, he did not invoke that right nor did he ever ask to speak to them according to published reports.

Claiming his international rights were violated would make more sense if he were denied access when he asked rather than requiring local police to force him to speak with said consulate officials.

Anonymous said...

Who exactly is responsible for notifying a foreign national of his specific rights in such a case? Every legal system is different and when I looked the specific statute up, it became clear that there was no one path that worked in every case for every country.

Since we appoint a representative to every defendant unable to afford his own lawyer (including this suspect), would it not be his responsibility to outline all the rights the suspect has to him? I'm willing to bet that the local Mexican consulate reads the Chronicle and other sources of information which were in full force when the suspect was arrested so they can't realistically claim they did not know about his case, especially when it dragged on for such a long time. As such, the suggestion that he was denied the right to speak to his consulate appears a rabbit hole for those grasping at straws (sorry Paul, we'll just have to disagree on this one).

He was afforded all his rights and there was no doubt he killed the cop, he admitted it, so death penalty haters would do better to focus on more marginal cases if wanting to persuade the public of its misuse.