In June 1993, my family was moving again, but we still watched the news. I’ll never forget that summer watching the news in Houston that two teenage girls had gone missing. Just a couple of days later, I watched on the news as the father of one of those girls stole a news van and rushed to the scene police had found of two dead girls. Police had to hold him back as he cried, “does she have blond hair?”
Even then, if you called 911 the police could track you down by the phone number that appeared when you called. They found a teenage boy who admitted that his brother had been involved in killing the girls. Within hours, Peter Cantu, Jose Medellin, Derrick O’Brien, Efrain Perez and Raul Villareal were in custody and each was ratting the other out. They were members in a gang called the Black and Whites, and the boys were jumping in Raul (meaning that he was being initiated into the gang). The beating over, they started drinking, and two teenage girls tried to walk by across the train tracks that ran through the park. They grabbed one, Elizabeth Pena, and threw her to the ground; the other, Jennifer Ertman, tried to run but came back when her friend cried for help.
They were both raped repeatedly for more than an hour. O’Brien took off his belt to strangle one of the girls and the belt broke. They then took the girls’ own shoelaces and finished the job with them. They left behind part of the belt as they moved the bodies from the clearing near the tracks to the nearby wooded area. It took four days for the bodies to be found, by which time they were decomposing in the Houston heat and humidity. The medical examiner noted that the extreme decay around the girls’ throats, cheasts and genetalia spoke to the horrific nature of their deaths and the brutalities they suffered at the hands of their killers.
The rest of the broken belt was found in O’Brien’s home and all of them eventually confessed to their roles in the murder. Raul Villareal was the only one to get a relatively light sentence: 40 years. The rest were convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to death.
O’Brien has already been executed. Several years after Medellin’s conviction, some hotshot attorney wised up to a little-known rule that required that all foreign nationals be given access to their home countries’ diplomats within three days of being arrested for any crime. Medellin, you see, was brought to the US from Mexico at the age of 3. He never told anyone after being arrested that he was actually a Mexican national and didn’t have legal status as an immigrant. He didn’t tell anyone until years after he committed a horrid crime, when someone told him he might escape the death penalty based on this teensy little technicality.
Suddenly, Medellin took center stage in an international fight to require the United States to re-open 51 other cases in which foreign nationals were given the death penalty without having been given access to their nation’s consulate attorneys. The same George W. Bush who picked up a sword and danced with the Saudis kowtowed to the demand, trying to use his position to force the states to comply. Texas, bein’ the stubborn ol’ mules that they are, refused. It went all the way to the US Supreme Court, and even the liberal judges there backed Texas law, refusing to bow to the wishes of the “International Court of Justice” (whatever the hell that means).
(Sidenote: if you go to the CCADP website, a Canadian group fighting to abolish the death penalty, you’ll see the Medellin has his own webpage. It’s been quoted by the Houston Chronicle with no regard for the reality of what Medellin is saying. He talks about joining the military, then says, “would have joined here, but I’m a Mexican, not a traitor.” But the very first words he says on that profile are, “My life is in black and white, just like the old Western movies…” In case you didn’t catch that, go back and read which gang this guy belongs to. He’s giving a shout out to his homeboys in gang code and nobody has caught it yet. Don’t forget, I used to work with gang crap every single day.)
Despite all the broo-ha-ha to save Medellin’s life, he’s scheduled to be executed tomorrow, August 5, in the death chamber at the Polunsky Unit in the Huntsville facility of TDCJ. Texas refuses to recognize demands by the international community to halt the execution. Barring an invasion by a UN force (hey, there’s a first time for everything), Medellin will be executed for his crime.
There’s been much ado about whether Texas should give a stay of execution because of diplomatic concerns. Yet I fail to see why we should be beholden to anyone not in this country. I promise you, the first time we cave in and allow international opinion to influence any decision in America, it will open the floodgates. We’ll never get them to stop trying to dictate what we do here. We are a sovereign nation, we adhere to our own law, and if the international community wishes to have any say in our criminal justice dealings, then they’d better damn well let us have a say in theirs.
I find it interesting, though, just how rabid the rest of the world is to force America into submission on this issue. I’d like to know where they are every day when women in Muslim countries are stoned to death for violating Sharia law. I’d like to know where they were when two young gay men were arrested, tried and hung in Iran within one week just for being gay. I’d like to know where they are when girls across the Arab world are forced to endure female circumcision (if you don’t know what it is, trust me–you don’t want to). I’d like to know where all these freakin’ do-gooders are when Palestinian children are indoctrinated with terrorist beliefs, taught to believe that blowing yourself up to kill infidels in the name of Allah makes you some kind of damned hero–in public schools.
What’s good for one is good for all. At least when you’re talking to someone who cares about following the rules. Randy Ertman, the father of Jennifer Ertman, had this to say about the whole thing: “The world court don’t mean diddly. This business belongs in the state of Texas … the rest of them can go to hell.”