TEXAS HAS AN OBLIGATION TO REVIEW DEATH PENALTY CASES WHERE THE VIENNA
CONVENTION HAS BEEN VIOLATED
The recent decision of the U.S. Supreme Court regarding the case of Jose
Medellin was disappointing. The Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the
President does not have the authority to order states to follow decisions
of the World Court. The World Court had ruled that U.S. states should
review death penalty cases involving Mexican Nationals because of
violations of the Vienna Convention. Article 36 of the Vienna Convention
requires authorities to inform a foreign national who has been arrested
that he has the right to inform his consulate.
Justice Steven's concurring opinion presents us with an interesting road
map – and a suggestion that states are free to act in support of
international treaty obligations even though the Supreme Court in this
case has not required them to do so. He noted, in a footnote, that on May
13, 2004, Oklahoma Gov. Brad Henry commuted the death sentence of Osbaldo
Torres because his consular notification rights were violated. Justice
"One consequence of our form of government is that sometimes States must
shoulder the primary responsibility for protecting the honor and integrity
of the Nation. Texas' duty in this respect is all the greater since it was
Texas that – by failing to provide consular notice in accordance with the
Vienna Convention – ensnared the United States in the current controversy.
Having already put the Nation in breach of one treaty, it is now up to
Texas to prevent the breach of anotherThe Court's judgment, which I join,
does not foreclose appropriate action by the State of Texas."
Despite the court's ruling, death penalty cases in states like Texas where
the Vienna Convention has been blatantly violated by authorities should be
reviewed by the courts. The defendants in these cases would have
undoubtedly received a much better legal defense if their governments had
been informed that they had been arrested. A better legal defense could
have saved their lives.
States should have to meet the highest standards of their legal
obligations before anyone under their jurisdiction is put to death; this
decision only highlights the woeful shortcomings of our appointed (and
elected) officials in their lust to enact the ultimate punishment on
individuals whose rights were (and will be) so blatantly violated.
Ruling hits home to ex-death row inmate—-Mexican freed in 2003 says
decision by justices is 'sad'
While reaction to Tuesday's Supreme Court decision upholding the
death-penalty conviction of a Houstonian born in Mexico was generally
muted here, one Mexican took particular note.
Marion Flores was convicted when he was 18 of the 1984 murder of a rival
gang member and spent nearly 20 years on Illinois' death row before
receiving a pardon in 2003.
Like Jose Medellin, whose appeal was denied by the court Tuesday, Flores
had been denied access to a Mexican Consulate at the time of his arrest.
"Access (to the consulate) is important, especially in capital cases,"
said Flores, 42, who was deported after his release from prison and now is
an adviser on U.S. death-penalty issues to the governor of Mexico state.
"Why not, just to make things safe, contact the Mexican Consulate?" he
said of U.S. police procedure. "Why would you fear that, if you have all
the evidence lined up?"
Flores was arrested in November 1984 in the slaying of a rival gang member
on New Year's Day of that year. With no one to advise them, his
working-class parents hired a lawyer recommended by a fellow gang member.
The lawyer also represented 1 of the 2 other gang members arrested in the
Charges were dropped against his attorney's other client when he turned
state's witness, Flores said. His testimony convicted Flores and the third
Flores received the death penalty because the jury ruled he had stolen the
victim's necklace in the commission of the murder. The third man was
sentenced to 40 years in prison.
Flores was pardoned, along with 2 other Mexican citizens convicted of
murder, amid a sweeping re-evaluation of Illinois murder convictions.
Noting that the small number of Mexican citizens on U.S. death row is "not
exactly a pandemic," Flores said he found it "sad" that the Supreme Court
ruled it cannot compel the states to comply with the world court's ruling.
"That's exactly what they do," he said in fluent English of the Supreme
Court's justices. "They set the pace. They are the big referee."
(source: Houston Chronicle)