Lone Star Justice

Dulles, Virginia – By what authority will we be governed? The question is increasingly important as activists demand greater U.S. compliance with institutions of global governance. America’s national defense is subject to UN Security Council approval, liberals argue. U.S. navigation and exploration of the oceans must conform to the Law of the Sea Treaty and the UN’s International Seabed Authority. Lawyers at the World Trade Organization make the rules for international commerce. 

Criminal justice is no exception. The case of Jose Medellin, a convicted murderer who was executed in Texas last week, demonstrates the determination of foreigners to involve themselves in U.S. affairs. It shows, too, the willingness of some Americans to cede authority to a government of the UN, by the UN, for the UN.  

Jose Medellin was an illegal alien and a member of the “Black and Whites” gang. In 1993, he orchestrated the brutal mob rape and murder of two teenage girls — Jennifer Ertman, 14, and Elizabeth Pena, 16. The girls were repeatedly violated, beaten, strangled, and left alone in the woods to die. A few days later, Medellin was arrested, given his Miranda warnings, and confessed in writing. His conviction of murder and sentence of death were issued, and later upheld on appeal.

When he was arrested, Medellin never asked to contact the Mexican consulate, thus the opportunity wasn’t offered by officials. It was only after four years of legal proceedings that he revealed his foreign citizenship and demanded assistance from Mexican diplomats under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

What followed was an orgy for international attorneys.  

First, Mexico involved itself on behalf of Medellin and sued the United States in the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ ruled for Mexico, ordering the U.S. to review Medellin’s case, and to “provide…review and reconsideration of the conviction and sentence.” President George W. Bush sided with the World Court, ordering Texas and other states to abide by the ICJ’s directive.  

Authorities in Texas refused. They challenged their former governor in the Supreme Court, which ruled in March that neither Mr. Bush nor the World Court had the authority to dictate to the states. “[N]ot all international law obligations automatically constitute binding federal law enforceable in the United States courts,” wrote Chief Justice John Roberts.

But the internationalists weren’t finished. Mexico went back to the World Court which ordered a stay of Medellin’s execution. Then UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon warned the United States that “all decisions and orders of the International Court of Justice must be respected by [member] states.” He insisted that the U.S. “take every step to make sure the execution does not take place.”

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Attorney General Michael Mukasey were ahead of him. A few weeks before, the two officials pleaded with Texas Governor Rick Perry to intervene and review Medellin’s case. Perry held firm.

After a final appeal to the Supreme Court, Medellin was put to death on August 5th. His cause, however, lives on.

In response to Medellin, Congressman Howard Berman (D-CA) has introduced legislation to give more authority to the Vienna Convention and international courts. Foreigners in the U.S. who have been convicted of a criminal offense, and “whose rights are infringed” with respect to the Vienna Convention, may use the courts to seek “appropriate relief.” This would include “any relief required to remedy the harm done by the violation, including the vitiation of the conviction or sentence where appropriate.”

Such legislation awards the International Court of Justice a starring role in the American criminal justice system. It would allow the ICJ to invoke technicalities and initiate additional appeals in U.S. courts. It invites an international authority to overrule decisions made by American juries.

The case of Jose Medellin is depressing for sure. It is a reminder of the blind eye government has turned to unrestrained illegal immigration. It spotlights the deference given to international courts and tribunals at the expense of our own citizens. When high-minded arguments of “international law” are involved, it demonstrates the ease with which the memory of the victims are discarded. “They’ve forgotten Jennifer and Elizabeth,” said Randy Ertman, Jennifer’s father. “They care only about saving Jose Medellin.”

After years of legal wrangling and mis-directed diplomacy, Jose Medellin answered for his crimes. Unfortunately there will be other illegals who commit crimes against Americans. It is appropriate to ask — under what authority will they be governed?