Last night, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice executed its 21st inmate of 2002, 33-year-old Mexican national Javier Su?rez Medina, who killed a Dallas narcotics officer in 1988.
Su?rez Medina’s case exemplifies the folly inherent in a system whereby a state entity is granted the authority to murder both its own citizens and those of another country, and law-enforcement agencies are not held culpable for their part in perpetrating a miscarriage of justice.
After Su?rez Medina was arrested for the shooting death of undercover officer Lawrence Cadena, Su?rez Medina confessed to the crime. However, he claimed that he did not know that Cadena, posing as a drug buyer, was a police officer.
While Su?rez Medina, who spent most of his life in the United States and speaks English, was in custody, he was not apprised of his right to contact the Mexican Consulate, which is provided for in the Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, a document that was signed by the United States. Without consular assistance and sitting on the stand for killing a police officer, Su?rez Medina, like many other poor minority murder suspects, was sentenced to die.
When a police officer is the victim, the stakes are always raised that much higher in a capital murder trial. However, the rules of the streets are markedly different from those that so many suburbanites enjoy, and the expectation that Su?rez Medina knew he was selling drugs to a police officer is ludicrous. While murdering anyone is an abhorrent crime against humanity, the criminalization of a free market and the steps that law-enforcement agencies take to enforce unnecessary controls on morality create an ethical gray area that should allow for the assumption that one may act in self-defense against an un-uniformed and undeclared officer of the law that is presenting a threat to a perpetrator.
As Su?rez Medina’s execution date neared, Mexican President Vicente Fox requested that Gov. Rick Perry grant him a stay. Though technically still legal in Mexico, the death penalty has not been carried out since 1938, and Mexico refuses to extradite criminals to countries where they may face either the death penalty or life imprisonment without parole. Last week, the U.S. Department of State sent a letter to the Mexican government, expressing their “regret” that Su?rez Medina’s right to consular assistance was “overlooked.”
What is truly regretful is the incompetence of the police in failing to notify Su?rez Medina of his rights, and the refusal of both the Texas criminal justice system and the State Department to recognize the impact those mistakes had on deciding the fate of a human life. Depriving Su?rez Medina from receiving rights granted to him in both U.S. and international law is more than a simple technicality like misspelling his name on an official document – it may have ultimately cost Su?rez Medina his life.