Faced with the Bush administration’s decision to comply with a World Court ruling on the rights of foreigners on death row in the United States, the Supreme Court on Monday dismissed a Mexican citizen’s appeal in order to give the Texas state courts a chance to sort out the issues in the case. While all nine justices agreed that the Supreme Court itself should not proceed at this point to a decision in the case of the Mexican man, José Ernesto Medellín, the court was sharply split over what to do, reports the New York Times.
The underlying issue in the case is whether the federal government, in defiance of a 2004 declaration by the International Court of Justice, can permit the execution of any of 51 Mexicans who were tried and convicted without notification to Mexican officials, as required by the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations. A behind-the-scenes debate at the Supreme Court for the past two mnoths was evidently finally resolved only when Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg agreed with four other justices simply to dismiss the grant of review the court had issued in December, before the Bush administration announced its new position. The administration had initially described Mexico’s case in the World Court as “an unjustified, unwise and ultimately unacceptable intrusion in the United States criminal justice system.” On the eve of the Supreme Court argument, however, President Bush instructed Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales to instruct state courts to abide by the World Court’s order that Medellín and the 50 other Mexicans get new hearings.