Proper advisements at arraignments

In July Humberto Leal Garcia, jr was executed in Texas. Mr. Leal was a Mexican citizen and during his detention he was not advised he may contact consular officials.

In 2004 the International Court of Justice found that foreigners detained abroad had a right under the Vienna Convention to be told they could contact their consular officials. In 2008 The U.S. Supreme Court found that the international court’s ruling was binding but that Congress through legislation, and not the President acting alone, could compel the states to compel with international law. The U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, found that while Mr. Leal’s rights were violated he was not prejudiced by the Vienna Convention violation.

post8aSome, but not all, Washington courts advise defendants of their Vienna Convention rights. The U.S. Attorney’s office has regularly encouraged prosecutors to provide these advisements at arraignments–and considering the slim margin in the Supreme Court’s decision it would seem prudent that all Washington courts (and not just some) follow the law.

Although we live in a democratic state and society, sometimes things don’t go in a way they should. First of all, there are numerous mistakes that the state institutions make. First of all, the state institutions are obligated by the law to follow that law and to practice it and use it for providing different services to citizens. Sometimes, when there are situations like this, some state institutions don’t work in a way they should. First of all we can see that sometimes there is a state of hypocrisy where double standards are used. This is a terrible situation for a legal system that claims to be democratic and respects human rights. We can only imagine the message, we have sent to the world. The message needs to be clear. All of our courts need to respect the law and of course we need to respect the conventions we have signed. We are obligated to respect them and apply them to our legal system.

About the author

Jacquelyn Smith