Texas’ top criminal court said President Bush overstepped his bounds last year when he told state courts to give new hearings to more than a dozen death row inmates from Mexico, reports the San Antonio Express-News. The unanimous opinion from the all-Republican Court of Criminal Appeals was the first decision in dozens of cases pending across the nation that rely heavily on the president’s unusual intervention on behalf of 46 condemned Mexican inmates. “We hold that the President has exceeded his constitutional authority by intruding into the independent powers of the judiciary,” Judge Michael Keasler wrote.
The judges’ logic faintly echoed a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that threw out the tribunals that Bush created to try terrorism suspects. In both cases, the courts said Bush erred in acting unilaterally. Prof. Julian Ku of William & Mary School of Law said some of the ruling’s reasoning might be vulnerable to second-guessing because it seemed to break new ground. The judges suggested that if Bush first had reached a formal agreement with his counterpart in Mexico, he might now have the necessary authority to order state courts to give the inmates new hearings. “That argument alone is likely to attract the attention of the Supreme Court,” Ku said.