U.S. Supreme Court

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT MEDELLIN v. DRETKE

World Court

QUESTIONS & ANSWERS ABOUT MEDELLIN v. DRETKE
[To be argued before the Supreme Court on March 28, 2005]

Who is Medellin?

Jose Ernesto Medellin is an inmate on Texasí death row. At the time of his arrest for murder, he was a Mexican citizen and hence protected under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (VCCR).

U.S. Abandons Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations

The Bush administration has pulled out of the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international agreement that has been in place for more than 30 years and that the United States initially supported to protect its citizens abroad. In recent years, the provision has been successfully invoked by foreign nations whose citizens were sentenced to death by U.S. states without receiving access to diplomats from their home countries, events which served as the basis for President Bush's decision to withdraw from the agreement.

The Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations requires signatories to let the United Nation's highest tribunal, the International Court of Justice at the Hague, make the final decision when their citizens say they have been illegally denied the right to seek consulate assistance when jailed abroad. The administration's withdrawal from the Optional Protocol comes just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider what effect U.S. courts should give to an International Court of Justice ruling in favor of 51 Mexican foreign nationals. The World Court found that the U.S. government had failed to comply with the requirements of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and it directed that U.S. courts give the death row inmates "meaningful review" of their convictions and sentences, without applying procedural default rules to prevent consideration of the defendants' claims. It is unclear what affect the administration's decision to abandon the Optional Protocol will have on this case.

Some analysts say President Bush's decision will weaken both protections for U.S. citizens abroad and the idea of reciprocal obligation that the protocol embodied. The United States was the first to invoke the Optional Protocol before the World Court to successfully sue Iran for the taking of 52 U.S. hostages in 1979.

NEW RESOURCE: Law Review Examines Competency To Waive Appeals in Capital Cases

A recent article in the Wayne Law Review by Prof. Phillys L. Crocker of the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law examines the Supreme Court's struggle with the issue of death row inmates waiving their appeals.  Crocker  uses Rees v. Peyton, a capital case that remained on the Court's docket from 1965-1995, to explore the issue. In that case, Virginia death row inmate Melvin Rees sought to withdraw his petition for a writ of certiorari so that he could be executed. In 1967, the Supreme Court stayed the proceeding after Rees was found incompetent to waive his appeal, but it did not dismiss the case until after he died of natural causes. In her article, Not to Decide is to Decide: The U.S. Supreme Court's Thirty-Year Struggle with One Case About Competency to Waive Death Penalty Appeals, Crocker concludes:

President Bush Orders Courts to Give Foreign Nationals on Death Row Further Review

The White House has ordered state courts to consider the complaints of 51 Mexican foreign nationals on death row in the United States. This Executive Order is an abrupt international policy shift for the Bush administration and comes just weeks before the U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to consider  what effect U.S. courts should give to a ruling in favor of the 51 foreign nationals by the United Nations' highest tribunal, the International Court of Justice at the Hague. The World Court found that the U.S. government had failed to comply with the requirements of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, and it directed that U.S. courts give the Mexican foreign national inmates "meaningful review" of their convictions and sentences, without applying procedural default rules to prevent consideration of the defendants' claims. In his memorandum to the attorney general, President Bush stated that he had determined "that the United States will discharge its international obligations under the decision of the International Court of Justice" and he ordered the state courts to grant review. It is unclear if the Administration's decision will affect the U.S. Supreme Court's consideration of the case. 

Supreme Court Bans Execution of Juvenile Offenders

By a vote of 5-4, the U.S. Supreme Court has declared the execution of juvenile offenders to be unconstitutional. Today's historic ruling in Roper v. Simmons holds that this practice violates the Eighth Amendment's ban on cruel and unusual punishments. The decision will result in a new sentence for Christopher Simmons and likely new sentences for the 71 other juvenile offenders currently on state death rows across the country. Simmons' position was joined by many professional organizations including the American Medical Association, the American Psychiatric Association, and the American Bar Association, and by numerous countries from around the world. Prior to today's ruling, 19 states with the death penalty prohibited the execution of juvenile offenders. Twenty-two inmates have been executed for crimes committed when they were under the age of 18 since the death penalty was reinstated in 1976.

United States Supreme Court Decisions: 1997-1998 to 2001-2002 Terms


LAST UPDATED ON JUNE 24, 2004

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Recent Op-Eds Regarding Roper v. Simmons

CLICK HERE TO RETURN TO THE ROPER v. SIMMONS PAGE

Op-Eds are listed in chronological order, with links to the articles below:

Julie Baxter, The Coloradoan

Vivian Berger, National Law Journal

Jeffrey P. Brosco, Tampa (FL) Tribune

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U. S. Supreme Court: Roper v. Simmons, No. 03-633

Argued October 13, 2004

Decided Mar. 1, 2005

 

Status of the juvenile death penalty prior to Roper v. Simmons by state
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