2017-11-09 05:22:32 UTC
Texas executes Mexican national despite international ire
Texas executed a Mexican national late Wednesday night despite a flurry of
last-minute appeals and objections from his native country and United Nations
human rights experts.
Death row inmate Ruben Cárdenas had several appeals pending before the U.S.
Supreme Court when the scheduled time of his execution — 6 p.m. — rolled
around. The high court denied all appeals almost four hours later, setting his
execution into process.
In his final words, Cárdenas thanked his family, friends, attorneys and the
Mexican government for their help.
“I will not and cannot apologize for someone else’s crime, but, I will be back
for justice! You can count on that!” he said.
Cárdenas, 47, was injected with a lethal dose of pentobarbital and pronounced
dead at 10:26 p.m.
He was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1997 Edinburg murder of his
16-year-old cousin, Mayra Laguna. After hours of interrogation, Cárdenas
confessed that he snuck into his cousin’s room through an open window early on
a February morning and then kidnapped, raped and killed her before leaving her
body near a canal, according to court records.
"After 21 years of waiting, justice was finally served," said Laguna's sister,
Roxana Jones, in a statement after the execution. "Words can't begin describe
the relief it feels to know that there is true peace after so much pain and
sorrow….Mayra can be remembered as loving, caring, funny and dimples when she
smiled. She will continue to watch over family and friends."
There was an international push to stop his execution because Cárdenas, was
never given the chance to speak to his country’s consulate after his arrest
more than 20 years ago, a violation of an international treaty. Cárdenas also
was not provided a lawyer until 11 days after his arrest, and his
representatives claimed evidence against him was faulty and his confession was
“If the scheduled execution of Mr. Cárdenas goes ahead, the US Government will
have implemented a death penalty without complying with international human
rights standards,” said Agnes Callamard and Elina Steinerte, independent
experts with the U.N.’s Human Rights system, in a news release Monday.
Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, all arrestees from a
foreign country must be told they can notify their consulate and receive
regular consultation from them during their detention. In 2004, the U.N.’s
International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that the U.S. violated this treaty
with more than 50 Mexican nationals on death row, including Cárdenas. A ruling
ordered that all the cases should be reconsidered before execution.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 2008 that even though the treaty created
obligations for the federal government, it didn’t force anything on the states,
according to a federal appellate court’s ruling denying Cárdenas’ appeal on the
“ICJ decisions do not become domestic law absent a Congressional enactment,”
the order said.
The Mexican government still says the violation is “illegal,” according to a
On Monday, the country’s deputy foreign minister for North America, Carlos
Sada, told reporters that Texas prosecutors didn’t follow due process and that
his country is looking to stay the execution. Hours before the execution was
set to begin, the Mexican Senate urged President Enrique Peña Nieto to call on
Texas officials to stop the execution. Mexico does not have the death penalty.
In recent appeals filed in state courts, Cárdenas' legal team said bad
practices in eyewitness identifications, DNA evidence and confessions led to
“To permit Mr. Cardenas’s conviction to stand without further examination and
testing would undermine Texas’s commitment to addressing the epidemic of
wrongful convictions, and would facilitate the execution of a potentially
innocent man,” attorney Maurie Levin wrote in an appeal filed last week.
Evidence used against Cárdenas at trial included an eyewitness who could not
identify him in a lineup but could at his trial — a practice that was
prohibited by the Texas Legislature this year in an effort to prevent wrongful
convictions. His legal team also argued that DNA testing done nearly 20 years
ago is now obsolete.
The crux of Cárdenas’ conviction, however, was based on his confessions.
Cárdenas’ account changed slightly during days of interrogation — the first 11
of which he did not have an attorney. He asked for a lawyer at his first
appearance hearing two days after his arrest, according to the filing.
Levin argued that Cárdenas’ confessions were “false and extremely unreliable,”
citing inconsistencies between his confessions and the facts of the crime. Some
of the inconsistencies she described were the lack of forensic evidence of
sexual activity even though he said he raped his cousin and his statement that
he killed her in the back of the car despite only two small drops of blood
being found there.
The state countered the false confession argument with a simple statement:
Cárdenas led police to the body when they were searching miles away.
“An independently corroborated confession, one that contains information
unknown to the police and known only to someone involved, is extraordinarily
strong evidence of guilt,” wrote Michael Morris, Hidalgo County’s assistant
criminal district attorney.
On Monday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Cárdenas’ last appeals,
where he pleaded for a stay of execution and additional DNA testing. The U.S.
Supreme Court issued its final denial of that appeal Wednesday night.
Cardenas becomes the 7th condemned inmate to be put to death this year in Texas
and the 545th overall since the state resumed capital punishment on December 7,
1982. Cardenas becomes the 27th condemned inmate to be executed since Greg
Abbott became governor of the state.
Cardenas becomes the 23rd condemned inmate to be put to death this year in the
USA and the 1,465th overall since the nation resumed executions on January 17,
(sources: Texas Tribune & Rick Halperin)
Executions under Greg Abbott, Jan. 21, 2015-present----27
Executions in Texas: Dec. 7, 1982----present-----544
Abbott#--------scheduled execution date-----name------------Tx. #
28---------Dec. 14-----------------Juan Castillo----------546
29---------Jan. 18-----------------Anthony Shore----------547
30---------Jan. 30-----------------William Rayford--------548
31----------Feb. 1-----------------John Battaglia---------549
32----------Feb. 22----------------Thomas Whitaker--------550
(sources: TDCJ & Rick Halperin)
A service courtesy of Washburn University School of Law www.washburnlaw.edu
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