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Court Overrules President Bush in Texas Case, Weighs Detainee Rights

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that Texas does not have to reopen the case of a Mexican national on death row, rebuking President Bush, and heard arguments in a terrorism detainee rights case. The National Law Journal's Marcia Coyle explains the day in court.

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  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    In 1994, a Mexican national named Jose Ernesto Medellin was convicted of rape and murder in Texas and sentenced to death. Ten years later, in a case brought by Mexico, the International Court of Justice held that Medellin's conviction violated an international treaty.

    President Bush said the Texas courts should accept that ruling and review the case, but Texas refused. And today, in a 6-3 vote, the Supreme Court sided with Texas.

    Our court watcher, Marcia Coyle of the National Law Journal, is here to tell us about it.

    Marcia, this issue goes back to when Mr. Medellin was first apprehended and was not told that he could have access or could consult with his own diplomats.

  • MARCIA COYLE, National Law Journal:

    That's right, Jeff. There are a number of states, not just Texas, that were not giving foreign nationals the notice required by a particular treaty to which the United States and many countries are a member.

    After his conviction, he made some appeals that actually went to the Supreme Court, went back down. But what really happened, what got this case going at the Supreme Court was that Mexico, which had at the time 51 citizens on U.S. death rows, went to the International Court of Justice…

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    Popularly known as the World Court right in the Hague.

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    … the World Court, that's right, to complain basically that the United States had violated that treaty requiring notice be given to foreign nationals that they can consult with the diplomats of their own country when they've been arrested.

  • JEFFREY BROWN:

    So then is it a case that pits international law versus state law? Is that how to think of it?

  • MARCIA COYLE:

    This is an amazing case, because it involves international law, state law, executive power, the role of the federal courts, many, many different things are at work here.

    But boiled down, the World Court issued a decision saying that the United States had violated the treaty, and it directed the United States by a means of its own choosing to see that these 51 Mexican nationals' convictions and sentences were reviewed to see if they'd been prejudiced by the treaty violation.