Appeal of death sentence. After Texas (P) convicted Jose Medellin (D) of rape and murder, he appealed on the grounds that Texas (P) failed to inform him of his right to have consular personnel notified of his detention by the state, as required under the Vienna Convention. On appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Medellin (D) argued that a case decided by the International Court of Justice suggested that his conviction must be reconsidered to comply with the Vienna Convention.
Jose Medellin (D), a Mexican national, was convicted and sentenced to death for participating in the gang rape and murder of two teenage girls in Houston. In his appeal, Medellin (D) argued that the state had violated his rights under the Vienna Convention, to which the United States is a party. Article 36 of the Vienna Convention gives any foreign national detained for a crime the right to contact his consulate. The U.S. Supreme Court dismissed the petition and Medellin's (D) case was remanded to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, which also denied him relief. The U.S. Supreme Court took up his case again, and Medellin's (D) argument rested in part on a holding by the International Court of justice in Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mex. v. U.S.), 2004 I.C.J. 12, that the United States had violated the Vienna Convention rights of 51 Mexican nationals (including Medellin (D)) and that their state-court convictions must be reconsidered, regardless of any forfeiture of the right to raise the Vienna Convention claims because of a failure to follow state rules governing criminal convictions. Medellin (D) argued that the Vienna Convention granted him an individual right that state courts must respect. Medellin (D) also cited a memorandum from the U.S. President that instructed state courts to comply with the I.C.j.'s rulings by rehearing the cases. Medellin (D) argued that the Constitution gives the President broad power to ensure that treaties are enforced, and that this power extends to the treatment of treaties in state court proceedings.
(1) Does the U.S. Constitution require state courts to honor a treaty obligation of the United States by enforcing a decision of the International Court of Justice?
(2) Does the U.S. Constitution require state courts to provide review and reconsideration of a conviction without regard to state procedural default rules as required by a Memorandum by the President?
1. the Us constitution does not require state courts to honor a treaty obligation of the US by enforcing a decision of the ICJ
2. the Us constitution does not require state courts to provide review and reconsideration of a conviction without regard to state procedural default rules as required by a memorandum by the president
Medellin (0) was executed on August 5, 2008, after last minute appeals to the U.S. Supreme Court were rejected. Governor Rick Perry rejected calls from Mexico and Secretary of State Rice and Attorney General Michael Mukasey to delay the execution, citing the torture, rape, and strangulation of two teenage girls in Houston as just cause for the death penalty. Though a bill was introduced in the House of Representatives to respond to the Court's ruling, Congress took no action .
(Roberts, C.J.) (1) No. The U.S. Constitution does not require state courts to honor a treaty obligation of the United States by enforcing a decision of the International Court of Justice. The Vienna Convention provides that if a person detained by a foreign country asks, the authorities of the detaining national must, without delay, inform the consular post of the detainee of the detention. The Optional Protocol of the Convention provides that the International Court of Justice is the venue for resolution of issues of interpretation of the Vienna Convention. By ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Vienna Convention, the United States consented to the jurisdiction of the I. C.J. with respect to claims arising out of the Vienna Convention. In 2005, however, after Avena was decided, the United States gave notice of withdrawal from the Optional Protocol. While Avena constitutes an international law obligation on the part of the United States, it does not help Medellin (D) because not all international law obligations automatically constitute binding federal law. Avena does not have automatic domestic legal effect such that the judgment if its owh force applies in state and federal courts, because it is not a self-executing treaty, and Congress did not enact legislation implementing binding effect. Thus, the I.C.J. judgment is not automatically enforceable domestic law, immediately and directly hinging on state and federal courts under the Supremacy Clause. (2) The U.S. Constitution does not require state courts to provide review and reconsideration of a conviction without regard to state procedural default rules as required by a Memorandum by the President. The presidential memorandum was an attempt by the Executive Branch to enforce a non-self-executing treaty without the necessary congressional action, giving it no binding authority on state courts.
CONCURRENCE: (Stevens, J.J Although the judgment is correct, Texas (P) ought to comply with Avena. Avena may not be the supreme law of the land, but it constitutes an international law obligation on the part of the United States. Since Texas (P) failed to provide consular notice in accordance with the Vienna Convention, thereby getting the United States into this mess, and since that violation probably didn't prejudice Medellin (D), Texas (P) ought to comply with Avena.
DISSENT: (Breyer, ).) the Supremacy Clause requires Texas (P) to enforce the I.C.J.'s judgment in Avena. The majority does not point to a single ratified U.S. treaty that contains the self-executing language it says is required in this case. The absence or presence of language in a treaty about a provision's self-execution proves nothing. The relevant treaty provisions should be found to be self executing, because:
(1) the language supports direct" judicial enforceability,
(2) the Optional Protocol applies to disputes about the meaning of a provision that is itself self-executing and judicially enforceable,
(3) logic requires a conclusion that the provision is self-executing since it is "final" and "binding,"
(4) the majority's decision has negative practical implications,
(5) the I.C.J. judgment is well suited to direct judicial enforcement,
(6) such a holding would not threaten constitutional conflict with other branches, and
(7) neither the President nor Congress has expressed concern about direct judicial enforcement of the I.C.J. decision.