Defending U.S. Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Federalism in Medellin V. Texas

By Cruz, Ted | Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy, Winter 2010 | Go to article overview

Defending U.S. Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Federalism in Medellin V. Texas


Cruz, Ted, Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy


In 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Medellin v. Texas, (1) a case that implicated virtually every conceivable axis of the structural limitations on government. President vis-a-vis Congress, President vis-a-vis the Supreme Court, international law vis-a-vis domestic law, federal government vis-a-vis the States, and, with a Mobius twist, President vis-a-vis the state judiciary. In Medellin, the State of Texas vigorously defended U.S. sovereignty, separation of powers, and federalism, and, by a vote of 6-3, Texas prevailed.

The Supreme Court's resolution of this case presents reason for both celebration and great trepidation. We should celebrate because U.S. sovereignty was preserved and because separation of powers and federalism--both foundational limits on governmental authority--were respected and enforced. Each of these structural limitations on government serves to diffuse power and to safeguard the citizenry, and it is only by ensuring the vitality of these democratic checks on unilateral authority that liberty can be secured. At the same time, the case invites great trepidation, because it represents an assault on those principles that will continue unabated for many years to come.

I. HOW THE CASE AROSE

The principles at stake were monumental, but, as always, the case arose from concrete facts. And, in this case, the facts were horrific. One night in 1993, two teenage girls were walking home in Houston when they had the ill fortune of stumbling into a gang initiation. (2) What ensued was the brutal gang rape and murder of both girls. (3) Even in Houston, a city hardened to violent crime, the facts of this case shocked the conscience of the city. (4) Within days, police apprehended the gang members, who in turn confessed. (5) Jose Ernesto Medellin, the second-in-command of the gang, waived his Miranda rights and wrote a four-page hand-written confession. (6) Displaying no remorse whatsoever, he admitted gang-raping both girls, and he described how they pleaded for their lives before he stomped on one girl's neck and strangled them both with a shoelace and a belt. (7) Medellin committed an unspeakable crime, confessed to that crime, and, after being vigorously represented by two state-funded lawyers, (8) was convicted and sentenced to death by a jury of his peers. (9)

Medellin's conviction was affirmed on appeal. (10) Then, four years later, he brought a new claim into his case on state habeas: He alleged that he was denied his rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Affairs. The Vienna Convention, a multi-lateral treaty ratified in 1969, provides that a foreign national has the right to contact his consulate if arrested in a foreign country, and that the arresting authorities are required to inform the national of that right. (11) Although Medellin had lived most of his life in the United States, had attended American schools, and read and wrote English, he was born in Mexico and therefore was technically a Mexican national. (12) And, there was no dispute that the local police had failed to inform Medellin of his rights under the Vienna Convention.

That, however, was not the end of the matter. It is a bedrock principle of American criminal procedure that rights not preserved at trial cannot later be used to collaterally attack a conviction. (13) In this case, Medellin's lawyers never raised the Vienna Convention at trial and so the habeas court held that any claim under that treaty was procedurally defaulted.

The Supreme Court has long held that legal claims--even constitutional claims, which enjoy the highest level of protection in criminal law--generally cannot be raised on habeas if they were not raised first at trial. (14) And there is no sound basis for according treaty claims more force than constitutional claims. For that reason, in 1998 the Supreme Court in Breard v. Greene squarely held that if a defendant does not raise a Vienna Convention claim at trial, then that claim is forfeited and cannot be raised on habeas. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Defending U.S. Sovereignty, Separation of Powers, and Federalism in Medellin V. Texas
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.