Naked City

Supremes hold off on Mexican's death row appeal

On May 23, the U.S. Supreme Court set aside the appeal filed by Jose Medellin, one of 15 Mexican nationals on Texas' death row, who argues that his death sentence should be overturned because he was denied access to consular authorities after he was arrested. In an unsigned decision, the court determined that Medellin's appeal was premature since a similar state appeal – filed after the high court granted review last winter – is currently pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. At issue, in part, is whether Texas must comply with the 1963 Vienna Convention's promise that foreign nationals have access to home-country representatives while traveling abroad, particularly when arrested. Medellin was not given access to Mexican authorities until four years after he was convicted and sentenced to death for a 1993 gang rape and murder, when he wrote Mexican officials from his jail cell.

Medellin's was one of 52 cases named in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. by Mexico and decided last year by the UN's International Court of Justice (aka the World Court in the Hague), in which Mexico argued that the U.S. was not complying with the Vienna Convention's consular access provisions. The ICJ ruled in favor of Mexico, which prompted Medellin to renew his claims, which had already been denied by both the state and federal district courts. On Feb. 28, however, about two months after the U.S. Supreme Court accepted Medellin's appeal, President George W. Bush penned an order asking that the "state courts give effect to the [ICJ] decision in accordance with the general principles … addressed in that decision." The order prompted Medellin to refile his state appeals and has now prompted the Supremes to put his appeal to the high court on hold. "This state-court proceeding may provide Medellin with the very reconsideration of his Vienna Convention claim that he now seeks," the court wrote.

Meanwhile, a bill that would codify Texas' duty to provide consular access to foreign nationals detained by law enforcement (SB 603, by Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston) is still pending before the House Law Enforcement Committee.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

capital punishment, Jose Medellin, death penalty, George W. Bush, U.S. Supreme Court, Vienna Convention, consular notification, SB 603, Rodney Ellis

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