AP, Aug. 14, 2002
HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) –Convicted cop killer Javier Suarez Medina was executed Wednesday evening despite Mexican government protests he was not provided proper legal assistance guaranteed to foreigners under an international treaty.
Speaking both English and Spanish, Suarez apologized for the crime, asked forgiveness from the relatives of the slain police officer and thanked the people of Mexico for their support in his case.
“I’d like to apologize to the Cadena family for whatever hurt and suffering I’ve caused them,” he said in a final statement that lasted several minutes. “I sincerely ask in your heart to forgive me.”
The mother and son of the officer were among the people watching him die.
“I don’t hold anything against anybody,” Suarez added. He turned to his family and told them he was going to “a better place. This is just a stepping stone. I’m going home. I’m at peace. I’m at rest.”
Switching to Spanish, he asked that God bless all the people of Mexico. “Thanks for your support and for never leaving me alone,” he said.
Suarez, 33, was condemned for the 1988 slaying of Dallas officer Lawrence Cadena, 43, gunned down during an undercover drug buy. Suarez, 19 at the time, and a partner were wounded and another companion killed in an ensuing shootout with Dallas police.
Dallas authorities said Suarez gave conflicting information when asked about his birthplace, identifying both Mexico and Texas. Birth in Mexico would allow him to seek legal help from the Mexican consulate when he was arrested December 13, 1988.
Suarez’s attorneys asked the U.S. Supreme Court to halt the lethal injection, the 21st in Texas this year and the third this month. The high court, without comment, turned him down about 90 minutes before execution.
Gov. Rick Perry, who traditionally withholds a decision in execution cases until legal challenges are resolved, then denied Suarez a 30-day reprieve, the only action Perry could take without approval of the parole board.
“I have reviewed all of the information presented to me _ including the issue of the international treaty,” Perry said. “My staff has met with Mexico government officials to hear their concerns about this case, and I have talked with Mexican President Vicente Fox about this matter. I respect the sovereignty of Mexico and its laws, and I know that President Fox recognizes the sovereignty of U.S. and Texas law.”
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles earlier this week refused, in a 17-0 vote, to commute Suarez’s sentence to life in prison. The panel also voted 16-1, rejecting a request they recommend Perry put off the punishment for 90 days.
According to provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention of Consular Relations, which the United States has signed, detained foreign nationals are allowed to contact their consulates for help, but Suarez’s supporters say he never was told of that right.
“Consular notification and access are both binding legal obligations and essential human rights safeguards that must be respected,” said Amnesty International, which opposes all executions. “Unless Texas authorities halt this execution immediately, the United States will once again lose its credibility as a nation which respects its binding human rights obligations.”
“We think and believe strongly that the need to provide consular notification is a very important issue,” U.S. State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said. “It has implications for reciprocal situations, obviously.”
Reeker, however, said the State Department took no position on the punishment, which was strongly opposed by Fox. Fox said Suarez may have avoided the death penalty, which is not a legal punishment in Mexico, if he had received help from the Mexican government.
Besides raising claims about the treaty violations in their appeal to the Supreme Court, Suarez’s lawyers said his 14 execution dates since his 1989 conviction amounted to unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment.
The arguments about the Vienna Convention were not new.
Similar appeals in 1999 failed to save condemned inmate Stanley Faulder, a Canadian, and in 2000, Miguel Flores, a Mexican.
At least four Mexican nationals have been executed in Texas, along with a man from the Dominican Republic and one from Vietnam. More than two dozen of the 453 inmates on Texas death row are foreigners — 18 of them from Mexico. In the Mexican border town of Piedras Negras, Suarez’s family prayed that he would be spared. Mexico does not have the death penalty.
Mexican newspapers reported Wednesday that President Vicente Fox, who asked Gov. Rick Perry to halt the execution, was considering canceling a trip to Texas later this month where he is expected to meet with President Bush.
Fox spokeswoman Alicia Buenrostro said the trip was still scheduled, but left open the possibility of a cancelation.
“We are going to see what happens” with the execution, she said.
Perry spoke with Fox about the case Monday, a day before the Texas parole board voted 17-0 against commuting Suarez’s sentence to life in prison.
“I realize that Mexico is a sovereign country and certainly I hope that President Fox and the citizens of Mexico respect our sovereignty not only as a nation but also as a state,” Perry said Wednesday.
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