Medellin v. Texas (2008)



First Timeline



Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national, was found guilty for being part of the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston, Texas.  The murder took place on June 24, 1993, when Jennifer Ertman and Elizabeth Pena, two Waltrip High School students, were attending a pool party in Spring Hill Apartments.  On their way home, they decided to take a shortcut since they needed to comply with their 11:00 pm curfew.  The girls encountered the gang members, who were drinking beer after participating in a gang initiation.  The gang captured Elizabeth and afterward they captured Jennifer.  The six gang members raped the girls repetitively and strangled them to death because they did not want to be identified by them.  

Medellin was arrested five days later after the crime was committed, and signed a confession after being read his Miranda rights. He admitted that he was part of the crime and boasted of having “virgin blood stains” on his pants. However, the authorities of Texas did not advise him about his right to contact his country’s consulate officials under the terms of the Vienna Convention. He was convicted for the crimes of rape and murder.  He was sentenced to death in 1997.  He appealed his conviction and raised a post-conviction challenge arguing that the State of Texas had violated his rights under the Vienna Convention.

Medellin filed a petition for Habeas Corpus in the (missing the number of the court) U.S. District Court in 2003.  The U.S. District court denied his petition, stating that his claim should have been raised in trial and not in the appellate court. In addition, the U.S. District court stated that he failed to prove prejudice against his case in regards to the violation of his rights under the Vienna Convention.

During the same year of Medellin’s appeal, Mexico brought a suit against the United States (Avena Case) in the International Court of Justice (ICJ) demanding that the United States had failed to notify 51 Mexican National defendants, who were accused in State Courts for committing crimes in the United States, of their rights to notify their consulate per the Vienna Convention. Medellin was one of the defendants included in the suit.  In 2004, the ICJ ruled in the Avena Case (Case Concerning Avena and other Mexican Nationals) (Mex. vs. U.S. 2004) that the sentences and convictions of the 51 Mexican Nationals were entitled to review and consideration.

Medellin’s appeal reached the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, but the Federal Appellate Court denied the petition. However, the denial did not deterred him and he continued fighting for his case.  Medellin appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in —, and he was granted Writ of Certiorari. The Supreme Court decided not hear his case based on President George W. Bush’s issued Memorandum to the U.S. Attorney General since under the Constitution and several other laws of the U.S., States should review convictions and sentences of foreign nationals, whom were not advised of the Vienna Convention rights.  Medellin filed a second appeal in the State Court for Habeas Corpus.  Medellin’s first petition was dismissed for certiorari under a per curiam decision (Medellin v. Dretke).

Medellin’s second appeal was dismissed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Supreme court granted him a second Writ of Certiorari.  The Supreme court used Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon as precedent.  The Supreme Court denied his second Writ of Certiorari and Medellin was sentenced to death.


Procedural History

September 23, 1993 — Medellin was charged for the gang rape and murder of two teenagers in Houston, Texas.

September 16, 1994 — Medellin was found guilty for the murders of the teenagers.

October 11, 1994 — Following a separate punishment hearing, Medellin was sentenced to death.

March 26, 1998 — Medellin filed an application for a state writ of habeas corpus, claiming that his rights under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention had been violated because the authorities did not advise him of his right to contact the Mexican consular after he was arrested.

October 3, 2001 — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied writ.

November 28, 2001 — Medellin filed a federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.

June 25, 2003 — The federal district court dismissed Medellin’s federal habeas petition.

October 24, 2003 — Medellin requested permission to appeal from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

May 20, 2004 — The Fifth Circuit Court denied Medellin’ request to appeal.

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.

November 15, 2006 — The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals dismissed Medellin’s application.

November 16, 2006 — Medellin filed a second federal petition for writ of habeas corpus.

January 16, 2007 — Medellin petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

April 30, 2007 — The United States Supreme Court grants writ of certiorari.

March 25, 2008 — The Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Criminal Appeals.

July 22, 2008 — U.S. District court dismissed Medellin’s second federal habeas petition.

August 5, 2008–Medellin was executed after a three-hour delay while the Supreme Court heard a late appeal, which was denied.


  • Did the President act within his constitutional and statutory foreign affairs authority when he determined that states must comply with the U.S. treaty obligation under the Vienna Convention by enforcing a decision of the International Court of Justice?
  • Does the Constitution require state courts to honor the treaty obligation of the U.S. by enforcing a decision of the International Court of Justice?

Arguments by Petitioner (Jose Ernesto Medellin)


Arguments by Respondent (State of Texas)


Majority Opinion (John G. Roberts, Jr)

Concurring Opinion (John Paul Stevens)

Dissenting Opinion (Justice Breyer)

Full Text of Opinions

Decision Analysis


Significance / Impact


Second Timeline

Scholarly Commentary and Debate

Constitutional Provisions


Government Law Under Review

Vienna Convention on Consular Relations Article 94 of the United Nations Charter; U.S. Const., Art. II, §3

Important Precedents

Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 548 U.S. 331 (2006)

Important Subsequent Cases


Web Resources

  • “Medellín v. Texas.” Wikipedia. Accessed December 10, 2016.ín_v._Texas.

  • Oyez:

“MEDELLIN v. TEXAS.” MEDELLIN v. TEXAS. 2007. Accessed December 10, 2016.

  • Justia: Majority Opinion

“Medellín v. Texas 552 U.S. 491 (2008).” Justia Law. Accessed December 10, 2016.

  • “Medellin V. Texas,” September 21, 2007, accessed December 11, 2016,

Academic Books, Articles and Law Reviews

  • Memorandum to the Attorney General, February 28, 2005, cited in Medellín v. Texas, 552 U.S. 491 (2008) (No. 06-984), p. 7.
  • Kristofer Monson, Thoughts on Medellín v. Texas, 45 Case W. Res. J. Int’l L. 389 (2012)

  • John, Quigley “President Bush’s Directive on Foreigners Under Arrest: A Critique of Medellin v. Texas. 22 Emory Int’l L. Rev. 423. Date Accessed: 2016/12/11.


  • The United Nations. 1969. “Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties.” Treaty Series 1155 (May): 331.


Karina Marquez (Fall 2016)

Task for Future Contributors