Texas executed Edgar Tamayo Wednesday night after the U.S. Supreme Court rejected an 11th-hour appeal to keep the Mexican national from death at Huntsville State Penitentiary in Texas. Tamayo, 46, was convicted of fatally shooting Houston police Officer Guy Gaddis in 1994.
The high court was considering at least two appeals. One focused on a consular issue. The other was related to whether Tamayo was mentally impaired and ineligible for the death penalty.
Tamayo's lawyers went to the Supreme Court after the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said an appeal this week, renewing an earlier contention that Tamayo was mentally impaired and ineligible for execution, was filed too late.
In a statement released immediately after the Supreme Court decision, Tamayo's lawyers said, "Today, Texas has once more shown its utter disregard for the rule of law and the United States' treaty commitments."
Tamayo's legal team accused prosecutors of having "steamrolled over evidence" of his "mental retardation," and called on Congress to pass legislation providing judicial review for Mexican nationals on death row in alleged violation of their consular rights.
Texas officials had opposed appeals to stop the scheduled lethal injection, despite pleas and diplomatic pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. State Department.
The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles on Tuesday rejected Tamayo's request for clemency.
The case has raised tensions with Mexico, which claims that Tamayo and 50 other Mexicans awaiting execution in the U.S. were convicted without being informed of their right to contact the Mexican Consulate upon arrest — a violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.
As a result, Mexico argues, Tamayo was denied assistance that could have proved crucial in deciding his case.
“If Edgar Tamayo’s execution were to go ahead without his trial being reviewed and his sentence reconsidered,” Mexico's Foreign Ministry said in a statement prior to the execution, “… it would be a clear violation of the United States’ international obligations.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry appeared to have heard that message. In a December letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, Kerry urged him to reconsider the execution on the grounds that it would damage relations with Mexico and make it more difficult to protect U.S. citizens in legal trouble abroad.
Tamayo’s case shares similarities with those of other immigrants on death row. His court-appointed trial lawyer failed to present information that might have influenced his sentencing, including abuse suffered as a child and developmental problems resulting from a serious head injury suffered when he was 17. In 2009, a psychologist said Tamayo had “mild mental retardation,” which would potentially make his execution unconstitutional.
“We’re always going to be the victims of our poverty and our skin color,” Tamayo told Spanish-language outlets last week.