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Texas Murderer Executed

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Derrick Sean O'Brien, who was convicted of the kidnap, rape and murder of two teenage girls in 1993 is scheduled to be executed today. On the evening of June 24 of that year, the two victims, 16-year-old Elizabeth Pena and 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman, took a shortcut home from a friend's house when they were spotted by O'Brien, Ernesto Medellin and other members of a Houston street gang. After stripping and gang raping the girls, O'Brien and Medellin each pulled on one end of a belt wrapped around the younger girl's neck. When the belt broke, they strangled her to death with a shoelace. Four of the gang members were convicted and sentenced to death but two, who were 17 at the time of the murders, were spared by last year's Supreme Court ruling in Roper v. Simmons. A federal habeas corpus bid by Medellin (a Mexican citizen) to overturn his conviction because the Houston police failed to notify the Mexican consulate in accordance with the Vienna Convention, was denied by the Supreme Court last year. His state habeas corpus petition on the same ground is pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. (CJLF's brief in that case is available here.) According to an Associated Press story O'Brien was a suspect in the rape and murder of a 27-year-old woman six months earlier. Last May the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied his Eighth Amendment claim against lethal injection. An appeal of that holding has been filed with the Supreme Court.

UPDATE: O'Brien was executed at 6:12 p.m. CDT this evening, July 11. The AP story is here. A Web page dedicated to Jennifer and Elizabeth is here. The Supreme Court order denying a stay and declining to accept the case for review is here.

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This was an absolutely horrible crime and tailor made for the death penalty.

Unfortunately, the Supreme Court saw fit to stay a Mississippi execution based on a last-minute appeal.

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