Tuesday, July 29, 2008

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Media Advisory: Jose Medellin scheduled for execution

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott offers the following information on Jose Ernesto Medellin, who is scheduled to be executed after 6 p.m. Tuesday, August 5, 2008.

Medellin was sentenced to die for the June 24, 1993, capital murder of Elizabeth Pena in Houston. A summary of the evidence presented at trial follows.

FACTS OF THE CRIME

On the night of June 24, 1993, 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena were walking home when they encountered a gang initiation.

The gang members present were Jose Medellin, Peter Cantu, Roman Sandoval, Efrain Perez, Raul Villareal and Sean O’Brien. Roman’s brother, Frank, and Medellin’s 14–year-old brother, Venancio, tagged along. The initiation involved fighting each member of the gang for a five- to ten- minute period.

As the girls passed Medellin, he attempted to engage Elizabeth in conversation. When Elizabeth tried to run from Medellin, he grabbed her and threw her to the ground. Elizabeth screamed for Jennifer to help her. In response to her friend’s cries, Jennifer ran back to help, but Peter and Sean grabbed her and threw her down as well. At this point, the Sandoval brothers decided that it was time to leave.

Subsequent boastful statements of Medellin and other gang members revealed that what ensued was a brutal gang rape of both girls by the gang members. After the assault, Medellin, Raul, Efrain, and Peter met at Peter’s house where he lived with his brother and sister-in-law, Joe and Christina Cantu, to brag about their exploits. Christina noticed that Raul was bleeding and that Efrain had blood on his shirt. She asked the group what had occurred and Medellin responded that they “had fun” and that their exploits would be seen on the television news. Medellin was hyper, giggling, and laughing. He boasted to Joe and Christina that the group had met two girls and had sex with them. He also told the couple that the two girls had been talking to them and that he punched one of the girls because she had started screaming after he grabbed her.

Medellin told Joe and Christina that he sexually assaulted both girls.

Peter joined the group shortly thereafter and began to divide up the money and jewelry that had been taken from the two girls. Peter gave Medellin a ring with an “E” design on it so that he could give it to his girlfriend, Esther.

When Christina asked the group what happened to the girls, Medellin told her that they had been killed so that they could not identify their attackers. Medellin then elaborated that it would have been easier with a gun, but because they did not have one at the scene of the incident, he took off one of his shoelaces and strangled at least one of the girls with it. Both Joe and Christina noted that Medellin complained of the difficulty the group encountered in killing the girls. After Medellin related the difficulty he encountered in strangling one of the girls, he said that he put his foot on her throat because she would not die.

Christina later convinced her husband to report the incident to the police. By the time bodies were discovered, they were so badly decomposed that dental records were required to identify them. However, enough tissue remained for the medical examiner to determine that each girl had died of a trauma to the neck consistent with strangulation.

Eventually, all of the individuals who participated in the rapes and murders were arrested. After Medellin was arrested, he gave a written and tape-recorded statement, the latter of which was never offered into evidence at trial. In the written statement, Medellin admitted to having oral sex with Elizabeth, but commented that he only peripherally participated in her murder.

PROCEDURAL HISTORY

September 23, 1993 -- Medellin was indicted in Harris County for murdering Elizabeth Pena during the course of committing kidnapping, robbery, and aggravated sexual assault.
September 16, 1994 -- Medellin was found guilty by a jury for the offense of capital murder and sentenced to death by the trial court.
October 11, 1994 -- Following a separate punishment hearing, Medellin was sentenced to death.
March 26, 1998 -- Medellin filed an application for writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court.
October 3, 2001 -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Medellin’s application for writ of habeas corpus.
November 28, 2001 -- Medellin filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus in a Houston U.S. district court.
June 25, 2003 -- The federal district court dismissed Medellin’s federal habeas petition and denied a certificate of appealibility.
October 24, 2003 -- Medellin requested permission to appeal from the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
May 20, 2004 -- The Fifth Circuit Court denied Medellin’ request to appeal the district court’s denial of his federal habeas petition.
August 18, 2004 -- Medellin petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for writ of certiorari.
May 23, 2005 -- The Supreme Court dismissed the writ as improvidently granted.
March 24, 2005 -- Medellin filed a second state application for writ of habeas corpus in the state trial court asserting his Vienna Convention claims.
November 15, 2006 -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed Medellin’s application as an abuse of the writ.
November 16, 2006 -- Medellin file a second petition for writ of habeas corpus in a Houston U.S. district court.
January 16, 2007 -- Medellin petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.
April 30, 2007 -- The United States Supreme Court granted Medellin’s petition for writ of certiorari.
March 25, 2008 -- The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Criminal Appeals decision and denied Medellin relief.
July 22, 2008 -- The district court dismissed Medellin’s second federal habeas petition and denied a certificate of appealibility.

PRIOR CRIMINAL HISTORY

Medellin was referred for a weapons charge as a juvenile in 1992. Later that same year, Medellin was arrested and charged with the offense of carrying a weapon.

MISCELLANEOUS

For additional information and statistics, please go to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice website, www.tdcj.state.tx.us.