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Supreme Court hears arguments on rights of foreigners in death penalty cases

[JURIST] The US Supreme Court heard oral arguments Monday in a case examining the rights of foreigners in death penalty cases. In Medellin v. Dretke [Duke Law backgrounder], a Mexican citizen was convicted of murder in a Texas state court and sentenced to death. In denying a petition for writ of habeas corpus, the Fifth Circuit held [opinion text, PDF] that the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [official text] does not confer any individually enforceable rights. The Supreme Court was asked to decide whether foreign murder suspects have the right to challenge their convictions on the grounds they were improperly denied legal help from their consulates. The case will test what consideration the Supreme Court will give to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in The Hague, which ruled last year that the 51 convictions violated the 1963 Vienna Convention. Last month, President Bush ordered new state court hearings in the 51 cases involving Mexicans on death row. The case is part of a growing debate on the role of international law in Supreme Court decision-making. Last month, justices in Roper v. Simmons [Cornell LII] ruled 5-4 to outlaw the death penalty for juvenile criminals, citing in part the weight of international views against the practice. AP and SCOTUSblog have more.

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