Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Transnational Constitutional Law - Proposed Legislation with Executive Support to Enact International Court's Decision Does Not Justify Stay of Execution - Garcia V. Texas

Academic journal article Suffolk Transnational Law Review

Transnational Constitutional Law - Proposed Legislation with Executive Support to Enact International Court's Decision Does Not Justify Stay of Execution - Garcia V. Texas

Article excerpt

TRANSNATIONAL CONSTITUTIONAL LAW--PROPOSED LEGISLATION WITH EXECUTIVE SUPPORT TO ENACT INTERNATIONAL COURT'S DECISION DOES NOT JUSTIFY STAY OF EXECUTION--Garcia v. Texas, 131 S. Ct. 2866 (2011).

The Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (Vienna Convention) obligates government authorities under international law to inform detained foreign nationals of their right to contact a consular officer. (1) The United States ratified the Vienna Convention in 1969 and initially joined the Optional Protocol Concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention (Optional Protocol), which gave the International Court of Justice (I.C.J.) jurisdiction over Vienna Convention matters. (2) However, in 2005, the United States withdrew from the Optional Protocol based on inappropriate interpretations by the I.C.J. (3) Even before this withdrawal, I.C.J. decisions under the Vienna Convention did not have the force or effect of domestic law. (4) In Garcia v. Texas, (5) the U.S. Supreme Court considered whether proposed legislation implementing an I.C.J. decision should warrant a stay of execution for a Mexican national. (6) The Court, in a 5-4 decision, declined to stay the execution. (7)

In 1994, Leal Garcia (Garcia) kidnapped, raped, and killed sixteen-year-old Adria Sauceda in San Antonio, Texas. (8) Texas authorities did not notify Garcia, a Mexican national, of his right to contact a consular officer. (9) A Texas jury found Garcia guilty of capital murder and sentenced him to death. (10) After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed Garcia's conviction and denied his state habeas corpus application, Garcia filed a federal habeas corpus petition, alleging trial errors, ineffective counsel, and the unconstitutionality of Texas's capital sentencing. (11) Garcia had not alleged any violations of his consular rights, and the Fifth Circuit denied his application. (12)

Subsequent to Garcia's first set of appeals, the I.C.J. determined that various authorities in the United States violated the consular rights of numerous Mexican nationals, including Garcia. (13) Garcia attempted to file a second state habeas corpus application based on the I.C.J. findings, but the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied Garcia's application under an abuse-of-writ statute prohibiting second or successive petitions. (14) When Garcia filed a second federal habeas corpus petition on the same basis as his state petition, the Fifth Circuit held that Garcia's subsequent petition procedurally was not prohibited as a "second or successive" petition because Garcia raised a new claim based on the I.C.J. decision; however, substantively, his claim became moot as soon as the Supreme Court decided the I.C.J. decision had no domestic effect. (15) Garcia filed a third set of state and federal habeas corpus petitions, as well as for stay of execution, based on a proposed senate bill enacting the I.C.J. decision; this legislation could grant Garcia a future hearing to determine whether Texas violated Garcia's consular rights. (16) The Supreme Court granted review to determine whether the possible legislation justified a stay of execution. (17) The Court held that the proposed senate bill--despite being well-supported--did not warrant a stay of execution, especially when any violation of the Vienna Convention was harmless. (18)

In order to facilitate consular functions, the Vienna Convention demands that a foreign national be informed of his consular rights when detained. (19) The Vienna Convention does not propose any remedies for violations, but it does grant jurisdiction to the I.C.J. for treaty interpretation and dispute resolution. (20) In one such case, the I.C.J. determined that fifty-one Mexican nationals, including Garcia, had been deprived of their consular rights by the United States, and the I.C.J. ordered "by means of [the United States'] own choosing, review and reconsideration of the convictions and sentences of the Mexican nationals. …

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