In a Quandary
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Normally, I whole-heartedly support executions. I think that they should be used more often. Some people just don’t need to live. I could go through the whole ‘social contract’ defense of using the death penalty to remove people who have committed offenses against the rest of the society that they live in, but I’m not. Suffice it to say that I am pro death penalty.
However, yesterday my home state of Texas executed a Mexican national named Jose Ernesto Medellin. Medellin was convicted of being part of a gang rape and then murder of two young women in 1993. The girls were aged 14 and 16. He was 18.
On the one hand, I agree that he should be executed due to the nature of his crimes. He, along with others, violated two young women and then murdered those women. According to reports, he later bragged about the incident. Hearing this makes me irate to no end. There is that vindictive part of me that thinks that not only should he be put to death, but that Texas should go Keyser Söze on him.
But on the other hand, because he is a foreign national, who was not allowed consular access for the trial; it does not bode well for American citizens abroad who may be placed in similar situations. I know that if I were to be accused of violating the law in another country, I would want to be able to contact the American consulate.
I think that the major crux of the quandary for me is the difference in how “justice” is handled in different countries. I believe that Mr. Medellin was given a fairer trial here in the United States than an American in Mexico in the same situation would have been given. I don’t delude myself into thinking that his trial was 100% fair, but I think that it was fair enough. It would be nice if we could always be completely and totally certain of someone’s guilt or innocence, but we can’t. So we have to do the best that we can and try our hardest to be fair.
However, the entire world does not share this mindset with us. In some places, we are guilty because we are American, or because we do not believe their religion, or because we have more money. How then can we expect justice to occur for our people over there? Do we allow other countries to interfere with our legal system, so that we may offer the same protections to our citizens abroad? If so, where is the line drawn? Do we only allow observers? Lawyers for defense? Do we allow foreign governments to file appeals on behalf of their citizens in our courts? Personally I believe the line should be drawn at having foreign lawyers defending their citizens in our courts. Anything more than that would be substantial interference.
There are other issues at play in this case: whether the president can force states to abide by the terms of international treaties and whether or not cases like this should be resolved in the world court. However, I think that the main issue is reciprocity. Do we give consular access to defendants who are receiving better trials here so that we may have consular access to our citizens in places where the quality of trial they are receiving is extremely poor?
Posted byJ. R. Guinness at 11:48 AM