Edgar Arias Tamayo & the Cost of Killing

The execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo raises issues of fundamental fairness and a willingness to comply with obligations bigger than state law (Photo Credit: NationalJournal.com).

The execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo raises issues of fundamental fairness and a willingness to comply with obligations bigger than state law (Photo Credit: NationalJournal.com).

By Andrea Hall, Mid Atlantic Regional Death Penalty Abolition Coordinator

How much is it worth to keep executions moving forward? What is the price of our machinery of death? In addition to the expense that is above and beyond keeping a prisoner jailed for life, there are the intangibles – the toll on the families of both the victims and the condemned, as well as on the prison staff, and the cost of perpetuating the cycle of violence in our society.

In the case of Edgar Arias Tamayo, executed tonight in Texas, the price may be much higher. We may very well have put our relationships with foreign countries, as well as the safety of Americans living and traveling overseas, at risk.

With the execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo, we may very well have put our relationships with foreign countries, as well as the safety of Americans living and traveling overseas, at risk.

In a blatant affront to the United States’ obligations under international law, the state of Texas executed a Mexican national who was denied his consular rights at the time of his arrest, depriving his home country of the opportunity to assist in the defense of his case. Because the trial court denied funding for psychological testing, the jury did not hear significant evidence of Tamayo’s intellectual disabilities, information that could well have tipped the scales towards life imprisonment.

Tamayo’s trial and conviction raised the ire of the international community, including the International Court of Justice, which found that the U.S. has a responsibility to “review and reconsider” the cases of scores of Mexican men, including Tamayo, sentenced to death in the U.S. In the end, clemency was the only thing that could have saved Tamayo. Despite the outcry from Secretary of State John Kerry, former Texas Gov. Mark White, and several foreign countries, he was executed without any review of his consular claim.

Of the 29 foreign nationals, including Tamayo, executed in the U.S. since 1976, only one was informed of his consular rights at the time of arrest. These cases go beyond opposition to the death penalty. They raise issues of fundamental fairness and a willingness to comply with obligations bigger than state law. It should give all of us pause.

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35 thoughts on “Edgar Arias Tamayo & the Cost of Killing

  1. Mexico's protests in this case make Tamayo's execution even more justified. That they would intervene on behalf of someone who came here illegally, racked up a criminal record, and then murdered a police officer to escape arrest is beyond obscene. The Mexican government should be ashamed of themselves and we should accept their condemnation as a badge of honor.

    Don't like the death penalty. Then don't come here and kill police officers. Or better yet, just don't kill anyone anywhere. Is that really too much to ask?

    Once again, AI shows they will always side with killers over the interests of their victims so long as the death penalty is involved. There is no murderer they will not love and no victim they will not trample on for the sake of their agenda.

    • The argument AI is making isn't even about the death penalty, it's about Texas not providing a foreign national with consular assistance they ought to be provided. Do you think being Mirandized is a good thing, or should people just be left twisting in the wind? Would you want to have assistance of your consular services informed were you to be arrested in, say, Iran? Or are you going to just roll the dice with a legal system in a country that is not your own? (Note: I'm not defending this guy, obviously; I'm indicting Texas for its process. These things matter. Processes matter.)

      • Clearly 20 years wasn't enough time for the Mexican Govt to file any protests or legislative procedures in reference to the notification issue. It would not have made a difference in trial.

    • Interesting that you are following and commenting against an organization that clearly possesses and ANTI-death penalty stance. It's never a matter of "siding with killers over the interest of their victims…." rather- in all cases, opposing the irreversible decision of taking (yet another) human life. I find that this article simply highlights one of the many issues surrounding legalized murder that AI campaigns against.

    • This isn't an argument about the death penalty. It's an argument about whether or not the state of Texas has to follow Federal and International Law. The crime committed by Tamayo is irrelevant to the discussion

    • "Don't like the death penalty. Then don't come here and kill police officers. Or better yet, just don't kill anyone anywhere. Is that really too much to ask? "

      I love the inherent contradiction within that paragraph.

  2. The Americans wonder why the world hates America. Makes me angry and sad that a country and be so backwards. Idots. !!!

    • idiots like the idiot that cant spell idiot???? Perhaps you could educate yourself to how it is in other countries, hell start with Mexico then come back here and spout about America being backwards.

    • I find it annoying that when our government, be it local or national, does something terrible so many people say "We hate you Americans!!" when in the harsh reality we have no control over them. Some of us "horrible Americans" protest and write to congress people and it remains as is. I am certain most countries are used to this style of rule yet you all expect us "horrible Americans" to accept you on an individual basis when you blanket judge us in turn. Who is the idiot here?

  3. He killed a police officer. Had a fair trial. Found guilty. Put to death. Still got to live 20 years to live after the crime. Seems fair to me.

      • Did you read anything about the trial to suggest the cop killer didn't get a fair trial?— or just AI's Article concerning consular notification (which the Supreme Court didn't even think was an issue significant enough to even take up).

  4. There would be an international incident of major proportions if a US citizen was executed in a foreign land under the same circumstances – say China.

    • Doesn't seem to be an issue when it happens under this administration in a place like, say, Benghazi.

    • Scenario – A US Citizen snuck into China and lived there illegally and had a rap sheet and purposelly fired a handgun 3 times in the head of a lawful Chinese citizen that happened to be a police officer placing said US Citizen under arrest for robbery. Lets assume for a minute that China actually had a legal system with near the same rights to the accused, appeal processes, checks and balances etc… The US Citizen sits on death row for twenty years, exhausts every possible appeal and is finally put to death without the violence he/she used to slaughter the Chinese Citizen/Law enforcement official. Yeah Geoff there would be an international incident of epic proportions… NOT!

  5. Why doesnt this article state what crime he commited? Isn't that also important? ..Not saying denying his Mexican rights was acceptable but tell the full story- now this site is reporting news like Fox? This is why i did not renew my membership.
    -From a Mexican American in Texas.

    • No crime justifies the death penalty. Murdering a murderer does nothing to erase the original crime and, indeed, if the state murders then some it incentivizes individuals to murder too.

    • the crime committed is irrelevant, at the moment. each offense has to be looked at individually, before it can be looked at as a whole.

    • No, the crime that he has been accused of is NOT an excuse to ignore due process and trample his rights. You do that to one man you have made the whole system worthless. The story is about due process and respecting the rights of other countries to defend their citizens as we defend ours on foreign soil. This is the point of the article you are missing. When we trample a foreign nationals rights be ware in that country your own rights will also be trampled. It's about respect for international law and not behaving as if we answer to no one but ourselves. This was a disgusting abominable display typical of Texas "justice"

  6. It doesn't matter what he did if your are against death penalty.
    And if you are against murder you should be against death penalty.

  7. This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding. (US Constitution, Article VI, Clause 2)

    • Supreme Court didn't even take up the "violation" of United Nations treaty. STATES RIGHTS — Texas is not a party to the UN Treaty.

  8. There is no excuse for the death penalty. This just makes Americans seem like stupid rednecks.

  9. What really gets me is that he was NEVER given a fair trail and that even when there was proof available of his possible inocense they were never even considered. It feels like the US wants to be judge of the entire world but is failing to see what's going on in their own home. It's really a shame that in the year 2014 things like murder are still being considered legal just because it's performed by authorities.

  10. If an American murders a police officer in another country and is sentenced to die, the people here agreeing that Tamayo should have been executed will concur. If that American commits a lesser crime though, and the sentence imposed by that country seems outrageous to Americans, it is important that diplomacy be an available tool the defendant and his or her supporters can call upon. When may another country ignore the United States attempt to assist an American citizen at the mercy of that country's criminal justice system? Effective upon Tamayo's execution.

  11. Because you libtards would have rather spent your tax dollars defending the rights of an illegal immigrant murderer. I couldn't even give a damn that he killed a cop. The guy was a murderer. SO – WHAT!

  12. No one should be denied rights that other people have. Just wish the legal system would not have denied the rights that others may receive. I am not against death penalty… But the determination has to be fair and equal. It is true he was illegal and he killed a police officer. But all humans should be treated equally. The outcome would more than likely have been the same… But because he was denied rights, the system did not impress me in this scenario. If the system failed, where is justice???

  13. No man anywhere in the world is entitled to take another mens life through punishment let the condemnation come from the man above on the last day of the universe better just take the killer out of society to avoid further evil from society thats why we have recreational facilities,lets not do harm to others just to please another.

  14. Gonna weep for Tsarnaev — the Boston Marathon bomber? The Feds under Holder and answering to Obama have just announced they will seek the death penalty.