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Texas prepares to execute Mexican national amid International tensions

October 25, 2017  |  Posted by: Francesca Falzarano
Texas prepares to execute Mexican national amid International tensions

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Next month, Texas is set to execute a Mexican citizen accused of rape and murder in a case that could further escalate border tensions over possible violations of the Vienna Convention and international policy.

The Mexican government is now supporting legal efforts by Ruben Cardenas Ramirez to stop his execution after officials failed to inform Mexico about the arrest and neglected to hold a review ordered by the United Nations’ international court in The Hague.

“It is as if the U.S. were thumbing its nose at Mexico and the United Nations,” Sandra Babcock, a Cornell Law School professor with a concentration in international issues surrounding capital punishment, stated. “When I say the U.S., we’re talking about Texas.”

To further worsen the international dispute, the condemned man’s attorney is claiming his client didn’t commit the offense that led him to a death sentence in the first place, The Houston Chronicle reports.

However, Hidalgo County prosecutor Ted Hake said the U.N. ruling is “not enforceable, ” and there’s no tool to hold the review under Texas statute.

“There’s no point,” he added. “This guy is guilty as sin.”

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has come in with a suggestion that the U.S. should abandon the death sentence, and the Mexican government has asked for an opportunity to be heard, court filings by defense attorney Maurie Levin revealed.

The former security guard was charged with the slaying of his 15-year-old cousin, Mayra Laguna, whose remains were discovered in a canal after she was kidnapped by a man who broke in through the bedroom window back in 1997.

The case has been plagued by allegations of unreliable forensic evidence, contrasting statements and witnesses, concerns about ineffective attorneys, and a purported confession that was coerced.

However, it was the concerns about treaty breaches and international repercussions that pushed the U.S. Department of State to meet in February with prosecutors in Hidalgo County. As it currently stands, the execution will still be taking place in November.

“It makes us a human rights abuser,” Robert Dunham of the Death Penalty Information Center, a nonprofit that has been in opposition to the death penalty, stated.

Investigators in Hidalgo County first arrested Cardenas hours after the kidnapping but did not immediately inform him of his right to speak to his country’s consulate, which is an apparent error that infringes on Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Ruben Cardenas Ramirez is set to be executed amid international outrage

A U.N. World Court ruling known as the Avena case stemming from 2004 — an issue Babcock argued for Mexico — mandates that foreigners who weren’t informed of their consular rights are permitted a review to determine whether that oversight influenced the result of the case.

However, for Cardenas, there’s some possibility that it could have influenced the case’s outcome. Hidalgo County never notified Mexico about the arrest. Instead, they learned about it after five months, Cardenas had provided multiple, conflicting admissions that Levin contends were coerced.

Repeatedly, Cardenas requested an attorney, but authorities disregarded his pleas until 11 days after he was arrested, and instead pushed on with their questioning without advising him of his consular notification rights.

Although the treaty violation could have international penalties, a 2008 Supreme Court decision considered it unenforceable, unless Congress takes legislative action.

“There are Mexican nationals whose rights under the Vienna convention have been violated, and they have been executed,” Levin added.

“This is the first case where there has been a substantial miscarriage of justice in that Cardenas could be innocent,” Babcock added. “Although there is a confession, that confession is inconsistent with the evidence, the statements are inconsistent with each other, and he is of low intelligence. And then you have a lack of physical evidence.”

Now, Cardenas has few remaining opportunities to avoid being put to death.

There’s a motion pending in Hidalgo County court for DNA testing of scrapings obtained from under Mayra’s fingernails. The prosecution has already protested the request, which came linked with a motion to stop the execution.

“To permit Cardenas’s execution to proceed without permitting this testing would fly in the face of the fundamental concept of justice,” Levin said in a scathing report.

At the same time, there’s a long-shot plea for a reprieve and sentence commutation with the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, and a petition for a 30-day reprieve pending before Texas Governor Greg Abbott.

If the death sentence continues as scheduled, some are concerned it could have ramifications internationally.

“When we allow executions to occur in situations like this,” Dunham continued, “we place Americans in danger because we risk that other countries will mistreat our nationals the same way our courts mistreat theirs.”

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