Execution of Mexican Is Halted (ADAM LIPTAK, 5/14/04)

In the first case to put in effect a sweeping ruling by an international court in the Netherlands concerning Mexicans on death row here, an Oklahoma appeals court yesterday halted the execution of one of those inmates, Osbaldo Torres. He had been scheduled to be executed on Tuesday.

Hours later, Gov. Brad Henry commuted Mr. Torres’s death sentence to life without parole.

The court and the governor cited the decision six weeks ago of the International Court of Justice in The Hague and noted that Mr. Torres’s right to contact Mexican officials under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations had been violated.

The international court ruled in April that 51 Mexicans on death row in the United States must be given fresh opportunities to argue that they were harmed by such violations.

The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest court for criminal matters, yesterday ordered just that, holding that Mr. Torres was entitled to a new hearing.

The commutation is certainly up to the governor, but for American courts to accept this ruling as binding is outrageous. Congress and the President should act quickly to either clarify or break any such treaty obligation.


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