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PENA MORTE: USA, MESSICANO TORRES GRAZIATO DA GOVERNATORE

E' UNO DEI 51 MESSICANI DI CUI SI OCCUPA CORTE DELL'AJA

WASHINGTON, 14 MAG - Il governatore dell'Oklahoma, Brad Henry, ha graziato un cittadino messicano di 29 anni, condannato a morte per due omicidi nel 1993.

Henry ha preso la decisione di commutare la pena capitale in ergastolo senza possibilita' di scarcerazione anticipata poche ore dopo una sentenza della corte d'appello dell'Oklahoma, che aveva rinviato a tempo indeterminato l'esecuzione fissata per il 18 maggio.

Il Governatore e la Corte hanno quindi accolto la richiesta dei legali di Osbaldo Torres, condannato a morte per un duplice omicidio, secondo cui lo stato dell'Oklahoma aveva violato la Convenzione di Vienna sul trattamento dei prigionieri impedendo al messicano di mettersi in contatto con il suo consolato dopo l'arresto.

Una richiesta appoggiata anche dal presidente messicano Vicente Fox oltreche' dal Pardon and Parole Board locale, l'organo consultivo che si pronuncia sulla condanne.

Fox era intervenuto nei giorni scorsi nella vicenda chiedendo al governatore un atto di clemenza. Secondo il presidente messicano, la condanna a morte era ingiustificata in quanto Torres non sarebbe stato l'autore materiale del duplice omicidio.

Torres e' uno dei 51 cittadini messicani in attesa di esecuzione negli Usa al centro di una recente sentenza della corte internazionale dell'Aja, secondo cui gli Usa hanno commesso violazioni dei diritti della difesa non informando gli imputati del diritto di chiedere assistenza legale alle autorita' consolari del loro paese.


OKLAHOMA: Henry grants clemency

Gov. Brad Henry commuted the death sentence Thursday of a convicted murderer from Mexico to life without parole, ending a monthlong battle by the 29-year-old to avoid lethal injection.

Henry's decision came after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals voted 3-2 to give Osbaldo Torres' an indefinite stay of execution and grant his request for a lower court hearing on the state's failure to inform him of his right to contact the Mexican consulate after his arrest.

At issue was whether the outcome of the case would have been different if he had made this contact.

"My heart goes out to the family of Mr. Morales and Ms. Yanez. This was a difficult decision, but I believe clemency is warranted by a number of issues involved in this case," Henry said in a statement.

Torres is one of 51 Mexicans on death row nationwide cited in a March 31 ruling by the International Court of Justice in The Hague, Netherlands. The world court found the inmates' rights were violated because they were not told they could receive help from their governments as guaranteed by the 1963 Vienna Convention.

The decision makes the state criminal appeals court ruling moot.

The appeals court judges had ordered a hearing in Oklahoma County District Court within 60 days to examine the issue of ineffective counsel in Torres' case.

"I have concluded that there is a possibility a significant miscarriage of justice occurred," Judge Charles Chapel wrote in the majority opinion.

In a dissenting opinion, Judge Gary Lumpkin argued that Torres had been represented by competent lawyers at each stage of his proceedings and had been afforded all the rights guaranteed to citizens of the United States.

Mexican officials urged the state not to execute Torres, who was scheduled to die Tuesday. The European Union had also asked that the execution be stayed.

Henry said he made his decision after hearing arguments from the state Attorney General's office, Torres' appellate defense attorneys and the victims' relatives.

"It is important to remember that the actual shooter in this horrific murders was also sentenced to death and faces execution," Henry said in his statement. "Osbaldo Torres will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his role in this deplorable crime."

Torres and a 2nd man were convicted in 1996 for the death of Morales and Yanez, who were shot as they lay in bed in their home.

The state has acknowledged that Torres' rights under the Vienna Convention were violated.

But Charlie Price, a spokesman for Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson, said the outcome of Torres' trial was not affected by this violation.

"We have argued that had Mexico been notified, there would have been no difference in the outcome of the trial, that he still would have been convicted and sentenced," Price said.

Oklahoma City defense attorney Mark Henricksen, who has handled Torres' appeals, said the violation was significant.

"Mexico has a demonstrated history, when they receive pre-trial notification, to help investigate cases, fund experts and help in investigations wherever can," Henricksen said.

Mexican Ambassador Carlos de Icaza told the pardon and parole board at the clemency hearing that besides Torres' rights being violated, evidence in the case failed to show he committed the murders.

A group of 10 former diplomats, professors and law school faculty have filed legal briefs in support of Torres' appeal.

Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon and Texas also have Mexicans on death row who fall under the world court ruling.


Mexican spared US death penalty

Governor Brad Henry's decision came hours after a court halted Osvaldo Torres's execution set for next week.

The appeals court said the US may have violated his rights under international law by not granting him access to the Mexican consulate after his arrest.

Mexican President Vicente Fox and officials from around the world had all called for Torres to be spared.

At issue is whether consular aid would have affected the outcome of Torres' trial.

President Fox sent a letter to Governor Henry this week, urging him to commute the death sentence.

The European Union had also asked that the execution be stayed.

Governor Henry said he made his decision after hearing arguments from the state Attorney General's office, Torres' lawyers and the victims' relatives.

"Osvaldo Torres will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his role in this deplorable crime," he said in a statement.

'Unfair trials'

In March, the International Court of Justice at The Hague ruled that the US violated the rights of 51 Mexicans on death row in American prisons.

The court found that the prisoners did not receive a fair trial because they were not told of their rights to consular assistance.

Mexican lawyers argued that consular help could have made the difference between life and death.

The Torres case was one specifically mentioned by the court.

The 1963 Vienna Convention, which both countries have signed, required the men to be informed of their rights to consular aid.

Torres, 29, was convicted of murdering two people in Oklahoma during a burglary in 1993 and was due to be executed on Tuesday.


Oklahoma Governor Grants Clemency to Mexican Foreign National

Just days before the scheduled execution of Osvaldo Torres, a Mexican foreign national on Oklahoma’s death row, Governor Brad Henry granted a request for clemency in part because of a recent International Court of Justice decision ordering the United States to review the cases of 51 Mexican foreign nationals on death row because they were denied their right to seek consular assistance following their arrest. Henry’s announcement came just hours after the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals decided to stay Torres’ execution and order a new hearing in his case. Last week, the Oklahoma Board of Pardon and Parole recommended clemency for Torres. Although Henry has denied three similar recommendations from the Board since taking office, his decision to commute Torres’ sentence to life in prison without parole marks the first time that the Governor has granted clemency to an individual on death row. In his statement, Henry said the International Court of Justice ruling is binding on U.S. courts, and that the U.S. State Department had contacted his office to urge that he give careful consideration to the fact that the U.S. signed the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which ensures access to consular assistance for foreign nationals who are arrested. “The treaty is also important to protecting the rights of American citizens abroad,” Henry noted. In an opinion concurring with the Court of Criminal Appeals majority decision to hear Torres’ claims that he was denied his access to consular assistance and that he was represented by ineffective counsel during trial, Judge Charles Chapel wrote, “I have concluded that there is a possibility a significant miscarriage of justice occurred, as shown by Torres’ claims, specifically that the violation of his Vienna Convention rights contributed to trial counsel’s ineffectiveness, that the jury did not hear significant evidence, and the results of the trial is unreliable.” (The Oklahoman, May 14, 2004) In addition to those on death row in Oklahoma, Mexican foreign nationals that could be affected by the ICJ’s ruling are on death rows in Arizona, Arkansas, California, Nevada, Ohio, Oregon, and Texas. None of these remaining foreign nationals are currently scheduled for execution.


Execution of Mexican Is Halted

In the 1st 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 6 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 will apparently have no effect on the hearing, as Mr. Torres remains free to argue that he is not guilty or that he deserves a lighter sentence than life without parole. And legal experts said the appeals court's decision would remain an important precedent in any event.

The main ruling in yesterday's 3-to-2 decision was terse. But the state court could not have ruled as it did but for the decision of the international court, according to the opinions of a concurring judge and the 2 dissenters.

Judge Charles S. Chapel, in a 12-page concurrence, said his court was obligated to comply with the international court's decision, given the United States' treaty obligations. Judge Chapel also suggested that Mr. Torres's trial might have come out differently had the Mexican government been informed of his arrest. He noted that Mexico helps its citizens obtain qualified capital counsel, investigators, translators, expert witnesses and evidence.

A dissenting judge, Gary L. Lumpkin, said the international court's decision was not binding in Oklahoma. Judge Lumpkin discounted the argument that Mexico "would have hired more expensive, experienced lawyers and provided more experts."

That was commendable, he wrote, but it was "not the legal standard."

Mexican officials, who had submitted a brief on Mr. Torres's behalf in Oklahoma and urged Mr. Henry, a Democrat, to commute the sentence, said they were pleased.

Donald F. Donovan, a New York lawyer who represented Mexico in The Hague, said: "The court has recognized that it needs to comply with the ruling of the International Court of Justice because the United States agreed to comply with it. It is an absolutely correct but landmark decision." 


Mexico's Fox Claims Victory in U.S. Death Row Case

Mexican President Vicente Fox claimed victory Friday in his campaign against the U.S. death penalty after Oklahoma's governor spared a Mexican death row prisoner, and called on other U.S. states to follow suit.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry commuted the death sentence of Mexican Osvaldo Torres Thursday, saying there were violations of international law in the case.

Torres, 29, whose cause was taken up around the world, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday for his role in the 1993 murder of an Oklahoma couple.

"We are pleased that this occurred and now we can take care of the cases of other Mexicans in the same situation," Fox told reporters in Poland as he ended a European tour. "It looks like it sets a precedent in the right direction."

Fox won World Court backing in his stand against the U.S. death penalty.

In March, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague, Netherlands, ordered the United States to review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row, including Torres, because it had not informed them of their right to talk to consular officers shortly after their arrests.

Oklahoma defied that decision in setting an execution date. But hours before Henry's decision, an Oklahoma criminal appeals court granted an indefinite stay in order to hold a hearing on the question of whether the state had violated Torres' rights.

This week, Fox asked Henry in a letter to suspend the execution for 30 days so Mexico could present its legal case.

Texas, home to President Bush and the state with the largest number of executions, also snubbed the World Court, rejecting its order to review its cases.

Sixteen of the Mexican nationals on death row are in Texas. Fox has pressed the White House to comply with the World Court ruling. In 2002, Fox angrily canceled a planned meeting with Bush in Texas after the state executed a Mexican prisoner.


FOX SODDISFATTO PER CLEMENZA A MESSICANO IN USA

CITTA' DEL MESSICO, 14 MAG - Il presidente messicano Vicente Fox si e' detto ''molto contento'' per la decisione del governatore dell'Oklahoma di commutare in ergastolo la pena di morte inflitta al cittadino messicano Osvaldo Torres, che sarebbe dovuto essere giustiziato la prossima settimana in un penitenziario dello stato Usa.

Parlando da Varsavia, dove si trova in visita ufficiale, Fox ha detto che la decisione del governatore dell'Oklahoma, Brad Henry, ''costituisce un precedente importante per i diritti umani di tutti i messicani nei bracci della morte statunitensi''.

Anche il ministero degli Esteri messicano, che al pari di Fox aveva interceduto presso il governatore Henry in favore di Torres, ha espresso ''grande soddisfazione''.

Il governatore ha commutato la condanna di Torres dalla pena di morte al carcere a vita facendo specifico riferimento alle violazioni dei diritti processuali dell'imputato. La Corte internazionale di giustizia dell'Aja ha ordinato il 31 marzo scorso agli Stati Uniti di rivedere i processi di 51 messicani condannati a morte negli Usa senza che fossero informati del loro diritto ad avere assistenza consolare al processo.

Torres era stato condannato a morte per l'omicidio di una coppia avvenuto nel 1994 in Oklahoma, ma si e' sempre dichiarato innocente. 


Mexico's Fox Claims Victory in U.S. Death Row Case

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) - Mexican President Vicente Fox claimed victory Friday in his campaign against the U.S. death penalty after Oklahoma's governor spared a Mexican death row prisoner, and called on other U.S. states to follow suit.

Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry commuted the death sentence of Mexican Osvaldo Torres Thursday, saying there were violations of international law in the case. 

Torres, 29, whose cause was taken up around the world, was scheduled to be executed Tuesday for his role in the 1993 murder of an Oklahoma couple. 

"We are pleased that this occurred and now we can take care of the cases of other Mexicans in the same situation," Fox told reporters in Poland as he ended a European tour. "It looks like it sets a precedent in the right direction." 

Fox won World Court backing in his stand against the U.S. death penalty. 

In March, the U.N. International Court of Justice at The Hague , Netherlands, ordered the United States to review the cases of 51 Mexican nationals on death row, including Torres, because it had not informed them of their right to talk to consular officers shortly after their arrests.

Oklahoma defied that decision in setting an execution date. But hours before Henry's decision, an Oklahoma criminal appeals court granted an indefinite stay in order to hold a hearing on the question of whether the state had violated Torres' rights. 

This week, Fox asked Henry in a letter to suspend the execution for 30 days so Mexico could present its legal case. 

Texas, home to President Bush and the state with the largest number of executions, also snubbed the World Court, rejecting its order to review its cases. 

Sixteen of the Mexican nationals on death row are in Texas. Fox has pressed the White House to comply with the World Court ruling. In 2002, Fox angrily canceled a planned meeting with Bush in Texas after the state executed a Mexican prisoner.

 


 EU POLICY ON THE DEATH PENALTY 

Office of Governor Brad Henry

State of Oklahoma
State Capitol - Oklahoma City OK 73105
405-521-2342

Gov. Henry Grants Clemency to Death Row Inmate Torres
May 13, 2004 

Oklahoma City – Gov. Brad Henry today commuted the death sentence of Osvaldo Torres to a sentence of life without the possibility of parole. The decision comes after the state Pardon and Parole Board voted May 7 to recommend clemency for Torres, a 29-year-old Mexican national.

Torres had been convicted and sentenced to death for the 1993 murders of an Oklahoma City couple, Francisco Morales and Maria Yanez. Torres’ co-defendant, George Ochoa, was identified by an eyewitness as the actual gunman. Ochoa also received a death sentence.

“My heart goes out to the family of Mr. Morales and Ms. Yanez. This was difficult decision, but I believe clemency is warranted by a number of issues involved in this case,” Gov. Henry said.

He made his decision after a thorough review of the case that included meetings with prosecutors in the state Attorney General’s office, Torres’ appellate defense attorneys and relatives of the murder victims.

“It is important to remember that the actual shooter in these horrific murders was also sentenced to death and faces execution,” Gov. Henry said.

“Osbaldo Torres will spend the rest of his life behind bars for his role in this deplorable crime.”

The Governor also noted that Torres had not been notified of his right to contact the consulate of his native Mexico to seek legal representation. Such rights are ensured under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. Signed by the U.S. in 1969, that treaty is also important in protecting the rights of American citizens abroad.

The International Court of Justice ruled on March 31 that Torres’ rights were violated because he had not been told about his rights guaranteed by the 1963 Vienna Convention. Under agreements entered into by the United States, the ruling of the ICJ is binding on U.S. courts.

“I took into account the fact that the U.S. signed the 1963 Vienna Convention and is part of that treaty,” the Governor said.

“In addition, the U.S. State Department contacted my office and urged us to give ‘careful consideration’ to that fact.”

Earlier today, Torres was granted a temporary stay of execution by the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

“Despite that stay, I felt it was important to announce the decision that I had made upon a careful and thorough review of the entire case,” Gov. Henry said.

The Governor has denied the three other clemency recommendations he has received since taking office in January, 2003. Under state law, the Governor can only consider clemency if it is recommended by the Oklahoma Pardon and Parole Board