This week the United States Supreme Court decided the case of Jose Ernesto Medellin, stating that the World Court has no binding authority over the United States' laws (specifically not over the laws of Texas). Ted Cruz, the Solicitor General of Texas wrote an opinion piece about the issue in the Chronicle today which illustrates the importance of the ruling.
(NOTE: Cruz's article has just got to be dismaying the hell out of the Chronicle's Jeff Cohen who had blasted the ruling earlier in the week for disingenuous reasons that his wife's agenda dictated).
By the way, where is Mark Bennett to accuse the Chronicle of fear-mongering, when you need him?
Although the ruling is a significant ruling by the Supreme Court on a national level, I think it is important to remember the significance that the murders of 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena on June 24, 1993 had locally. The case, to this day, is still one of the most shocking to have ever occurred in Harris County. The story of the two girls that stumbled upon a gang initiation, only to be raped and murdered horrified even the most seasoned of HPD's Homicide Detectives, not to mention the entire community.
In addition to Medellin, Peter Cantu, Derrick Sean O'Brien, Efrain Perez, and Raul Villarreal were all convicted and sentenced to death for the crimes. A sixth person, Venacio Medellin, was a juvenile at the time of the murders.
Derrick O'Brien was executed on July 11, 2006. Raul Villarreal and Efrain Perez had their sentences commuted to Life in prison when the Supreme Court ruled that 17-years-olds were too young to be executed. Medellin and Peter Cantu are still awaiting their execution dates.
By the way, Kelly Siegler was one of the prosecutors that tried Raul Villarreal and he initially received a death sentence. That changed with the Supreme Court's ruling about 17-year-old's being executed. I just mention that to illustrate that sometimes the Higher Courts change the law, and that doesn't mean that the trial court prosecutor violated any rules (as Pat Lykos likes to misrepresent).
What many people may not remember was the importance that the murders of Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena had on Victim Advocacy. Randy and Sandra Ertman, as well as Adolfo and Melissa Pena became the faces and social conscience of Crime Victims in Harris County, Texas. They attended every day of each trial. They were very open with the media about their grief.
They were very open with everyone about their anger.
They showed the world what it was to be a victim, but not a helpless victim.
Through their work, and the assistance of Andy Kahan, laws got changed. Laws that had an effect on how victims and their families were treated by the Texas Judicial System.
Victims can now make a "Victim Impact Statement" during trial, after sentencing has been decided. Victims' families can now attend the executions of the person responsible killing their loved one(s) in a capital murder.
I guess the reason that I bring this up is that with the Medellin case, there will be a lot of discussion over whether or not it was right. Death penatly opponents will call the ruling as something that further makes the United States look like an ogre in the eyes of the rest of the World.
Yada yada yada.
At the beginning of this case, two young girls lost their lives on a dark night at the hands of six violent, blood-thirsty gang members. That stunned even a street-wise town like Houston, Texas. In a county that sends the most people to Death Row, this case shocked everyone involved.
Sometimes it is just appropriate to remember that when we do talk about a Defendant's rights, that we never forget what happened to the victims while we do so.