KEATING denies clemency for Mexican national

Tuesday, July 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ An attorney for convicted murderer Gerardo Valdez contends Oklahoma cannot legally execute the man before Sept. 18, court records showed Monday.

Defense attorney Robert A. Nance of Oklahoma City wants to argue the matter before the Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals.

Attorney General Drew Edmondson filed a request with the court on Friday, seeking to reset Valdez' execution for Aug. 21.

Edmondson acted after Gov. Frank Keating denied a request for clemency for Valdez, a Mexican national, despite a personal appeal from Mexican President Vicente Fox.

Responding to Edmondson's request for an August execution, Nance filed a brief arguing that Edmondson's actions are ``contrary to settled Oklahoma law.''

The attorney said that when a reprieve is lifted, an execution date can be set no later than 60 days from the date of that order. That would mean the execution could go forward no earlier than Sept. 18.

Valdez' execution had been scheduled for June 19, but Keating granted him a 30-day reprieve to consider the Pardon and Parole Board's recommendation that the condemned inmate's sentence be commuted.

In deciding Valdez' execution should go forward, Keating conceded the Mexican national's rights were violated under international law, but said that did not affect the trial's outcome or sentence.

Valdez was sentenced to die by lethal injection for the 1989 shooting and beating death of Juan Barron of Anadarko, a killing Keating called ``a heinous hate crime.''

Fox and other Mexican officials have said Article 36 of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires nationals who are arrested access to their home country's consulate.

Mexico's Foreign Relations Ministry said it ``deeply regrets a decision that violated international law and one of the principle elements of cooperation between nations.''

``This decision goes against the firm convictions of the Mexican public, who absolutely respect the right to life in all cases,'' it says.

It said the outcome of Valdez's trial ``would clearly have been different'' had he been represented by Mexican consular officials.

Investigators said Valdez met Barron at a bar and took him to his home, where he preached to him about the evil of homosexuality before killing him.

Keating said it was regrettable and ``inexcusable'' that Valdez' rights were violated, but said the violation did not change the outcome of the trial.