[JURIST] The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals [official website] has ruled [opinion text; case materials] that President Bush "exceeded his constitutional authority by intruding into the independent powers of the judiciary" with an "unprecedented" directive ordering state court rehearings [JURIST report] for 51 Mexican nationals convicted in US courts. The president's February 2005 memorandum [text] instructed the Texas courts to follow a March 2004 decision [materials] by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). In rejecting the appeal of Jose Ernesto Medellin [ASIL case backgrounder], who was convicted of raping and murdering two teenagers, a majority of the Court of Criminal Appeals concluded: "Having acted contrary to the implied will of Congress ... the President has exceeded his inherent constitutional foreign affairs authority by directing state courts to comply with [the ICJ decision]."
After he was sentenced to death by a Texas court in 1997, Medellin filed a habeas corpus petition arguing that the US had breached his right to contact the Mexican consulate for legal assistance under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations [PDF text]. The court held that Medellin raised this claim too late in the proceedings and that the Vienna Convention did not provide rights that individuals could invoke in US courts. While a federal appeal was pending, the ICJ held that Medellin and the other Mexican nationals tried in US courts had been denied their rights under the Vienna Convention and that the US was obligated to grant review and reconsideration of their convictions and sentences. President Bush's 2005 memorandum followed, and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals granted Medellin a new hearing. AP has more. The San Antonio Express-News has local coverage.