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Texas to Ignore Court Order to Stay Executions

February 07, 2003|From Reuters

HOUSTON — An unrepentant Texas said Thursday it would ignore a World Court order demanding it stay the executions of two Mexicans, a decision likely to create more friction between the United States and its allies over capital punishment.

The International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, on Wednesday ordered the U.S. to stay the executions of three Mexicans and reserved the right to intervene in dozens of other cases.

Mexico brought the World Court case last month, arguing that 54 of its citizens on death row should get retrials. It accused U.S. police of violating an international treaty by failing to tell the men of their right to consular assistance after being arrested.

The World Court said it acted in three cases where the men were at risk of execution before the lengthy court case is finished.

Two of those affected -- Cesar Robert Fierro Reyna and Roberto Moreno Ramos -- are in Texas and the third, Osvaldo Torres Aguilera, is in Oklahoma. None of the three has an execution date.

The U.S. State Department is reviewing the order and has not said whether Washington will order Texas and Oklahoma to stay the executions. The U.S. argued the order would interfere with its sovereign right to administer its criminal justice system.

"According to our reading of the law and the treaty, there is no authority for the federal government or this World Court to prohibit Texas from exercising the laws passed by our legislature," said Gene Acuna, a spokesman for Texas Gov. Rick Perry. The state is by far the nation's death penalty leader.

Perry believes that state and federal courts provide adequate safeguards and are the appropriate forums in which to hear "issues such as consular notification on a case-by-case basis," Acuna said. Orders from those courts are the only ones Texas will follow, he said.

Jennifer Miller, the chief of criminal appeals for the Oklahoma attorney general's office, said the state was reviewing the World Court order.

Torres has several avenues of appeal open to him, including the U.S. 10th Circuit Court of Appeals and the U.S. Supreme Court, she said.

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