Supreme Court Takes Second Look At Death Sentences Imposed On Foreigners

Monday, April 30th 2007, 9:35 am

By: News On 6

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The Supreme Court stepped into a Texas death penalty case Monday that mixes Bush administration claims of executive power with the role of international law in state court proceedings.

The case accepted by the justices for argument this fall concerns the fate of Jose Ernesto Medellin, a Mexican national who was sentenced in 1994 to die for the rapes and killings of two teenage girls.

The state wants to go ahead with Medellin's execution, despite a ruling from the International Court of Justice in The Hague that the convictions of Medellin and 50 other Mexican-born prisoners violated the 1963 Vienna Convention because they were denied legal help available to them under the treaty.

The pact requires consular access for Americans detained abroad and foreigners arrested in the United States. Mexico sued the United States in the international court, alleging the prisoners' rights had been violated.

Unusual for a death penalty case, the administration is siding with Medellin in asserting that the president's primacy in conducting foreign policy is being challenged.

President Bush ordered new state court hearings for the defendants based on the international court ruling. But a Texas appeals court said the president exceeded his authority by intruding into the affairs of the independent judiciary.

The administration noted in its brief to the court that Bush does not agree with the international tribunal's interpretations of the Vienna Convention. However, the United States had agreed to the Hague court's resolution of the dispute and said it would abide by the outcome.

The Mexican government and international law experts have weighed in on behalf of Medellin.

The justices agreed to consider Medellin's case once before. But they dismissed the proceeding in 2005, after Bush ordered the state court reviews. The justices reserved the right to hear the appeal again once the case had run its full course, as it now has, in state court.

The case is Medellin v. Texas, 06-984.

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