Thursday, August 07, 2008


Two days ago, the state of Texas finally did the right thing and stuck the Needle o’ Nepenthe in Jose Medellin’s arm. Medellin, a Mexican national, managed to walk the planet fifteen years longer than the girls he, along with several accomplices, raped and murdered in 1993.

Elizabeth Peña and Jennifer Ertman were sixteen and fourteen, respectively, at the time of their deaths. Trying to get home before curfew, they took a shortcut through Houston’s T. C. Jester Park that led them right into the midst of a gang initiation. Wrong place, wrong time.

The girls never left the park alive. Those with strong stomachs can read the details here. Medellin was one of three gang members (of a total of six involved in the girls’ rape and murder) convicted of capital murder.

In addition to the usual stink raised by anti-death penalty advocates, Medellin’s case was something of an international cause célebre, owing to a U.N. World Court ruling that Medellin (among others) was entitled to a hearing because he had been denied his consular rights, having (allegedly) not been given an opportunity to contact Mexican consular officials after his arrest. (Texas authorities claim that Medellin had not informed them at the time that he was a Mexican national.)

Last month, the World Court ordered a stay of execution.

Predictably, Texas’s response was to stick it in the World Court’s eye. Governor Goodhair (quite properly) said that Texas “is not bound by the decisions of international courts and that the state is determined to hold killers, regardless of their nationality, responsible for their crimes.”

If Mr. Medellin wanted to be free to murder teenage girls and not be executed as a result, he could have stayed in Mexico, where there is no death penalty. But he chose to come to Texas, a state that makes no secret of the fact that it will give you the Long Gurney Ride as a reward for certain socially undesirable behaviors.

[Meanwhile, the skyrocketing murder rate south of the border may end up convincing Mexico to reinstate the death penalty. It certainly helped to minimize the howls of protest at Medellin’s execution.]

Ah, the United Nations. We already know how reasonable and intelligent that fine organization is. How they issue resolution after resolution condemning Israel - the only democracy in the Middle East - for purported human rights violations, all the time ignoring the suicide bombings and the steady stream of rockets raining down on Sderot from Gaza. I am so glad they have shown an interest in the fate of this poor young man from Nuevo Laredo. It’s important that he get every chance to plead his case...just like his victims got.

The Ertman-Peña case inches closer to resolution with Medellin finally put down. It’s a case that hit home for me, because we lived in Houston at the time...and Elder Daughter was the same age as poor Jennifer Ertman. When I thought of what these depraved little bastards had done to someone’s daughters, I could only feel a cold horror.

Medellin got what he deserved, albeit belatedly. There’s an old Texas saying that seems to apply with especial force in his case: He needed killing.

It’s an outcome that gives me no joy. I would much rather the whole thing had never happened. Elizabeth and Jennifer might still be alive, might be starting their own families. But because these things did happen, and because they did not happen by themselves but by the deliberate actions of Jose Medellin and his friends, Medellin owed a debt that could be paid only one way.

Well, not exactly one way. Because, if I were king, he would not have ridden to eternity on the wings of a painless injection. I would’ve made it hurt.

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