Singing Loudly: Supreme Ct. grants cert on another Texas Death Penalty case

Singing Loudly

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Supreme Ct. grants cert on another Texas Death Penalty case

This one will be quite interesting as it deals with international law under the Vienna Convention. Jose Medellin was convicted without his country ever being informed that he was on trial. The issue will be whether international law was breached by not giving his country the opportunity to defend their national.

This decision, expected by July, could change the fates of 16 Mexican nationals on death row in Texas, and more than 50 around the country.

"The Hague said the United States had breached the treaty and the remedy is an opportunity to review the convictions and sentences," said Lori Damrosch, a Columbia law professor who filed a supporting brief on behalf of a group of international law experts. "The International Court of Justice is binding on the United States as a whole and therefore is biding on all courts in the U.S., and the Supreme Court has the responsibility to clarify its previous rulings so lower courts know what to do."

One of the more interesting quotes in the article comes from Andy Kahan, director of the Mayor's Crime Victims Assistance Office in Houston, who seems to completely misunderstand the United States criminal justice system:

I continue to be shocked and amazed by the actions of a system that is supposed to protect our victims and their families, but seems to go out of its way to protect brutal, violent, remorseless killers

While I feel terrible for the victims, the courts are not, on an significant level, set up to protect victims and their families. In my opinion, what the court strives the hardest for is to make sure that innocent people are protected with their rights and are not wrongfully convicted. To balance this the Constitution has established a system where some guilty people can walk free at times. If this weren't true than the standard of proof in a criminal trial could be more akin to a civil: preponderance of the evidence is all the state has to prove. What is more, if we really wanted this to be a protection of the victims then the constitution could require that the defendant proves his innocence. This simply is not our system, because we do not believe that innocent suspects should lose rights, liberties, or their life because there is an unfortunate victim of a crime who wants vindication.

I understand that it's hard for the victims of crimes, and their families, to understand why the process makes it so difficult to convict someone, and even more difficult to kill someone. Quotes like this, to me, only makes my belief in the system stronger,

Melissa Peña said the Supreme Court case will be "just another hurdle for us to jump through." It would have been nice, she said, if her daughter had been given 10 years to argue for her life.

"Where were her appeals?" she said.

because the right person needs to convicted under a fair and equitable system.


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