Prof. Russell Miller Discusses International Treaty Obligations and U.S. Courts in leading German Newspaper

Lexington, VA Friday, October 31, 2008

Washington and Lee School of Law Professor Russel A. Miller was quoted in an article in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Germany's leading newspaper. The article covers the U.S. Supreme Court's Medellin decision from last term, which held that federal treaty obligations, as interpreted by the International Court of Justice, are not binding on U.S. courts. 

The Medellin case arose out of challenges to a Texas death penalty that was secured against Medellin on the grounds that his international rights under the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights had been violated.  The Convention requires arresting authorities to advise foreigners that they can contact their consulate, which did not occur in this case.

The case is particularly significant for Germany because it pursued a challenge to U.S. enforcement of the Vienna Convention before the International Court of Justice in cases involving Germans sentenced to death in the U.S.  The German Le Grand brothers also were not notified of their consular rights and, despite rulings in their favor from the International Court of Justice, were eventually executed by the state of Arizona. 

Prof. Miller attended the arguments in the Le Grand case before the International Court of Justice. In addition, he worked on the case of two other German brothers sentenced to death in Arizona, the Apelt brothers, who also alleged violations of their consular rights.

In the article, Prof. Miller remarks that despite all the emphasis on these cases as purely matters of international law, they represented a significant and strategic critique of the U.S. death penalty policy.


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