Osbaldo Torres is a Mexican national who was convicted of the brutal 1993 murder of an Oklahoma city couple in their bed during a burglary. He was found near the scene of the crime with the victims’ blood on his clothes. Torres was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. He lost his subsequent appeal and additional post-conviction proceedings in the Oklahoma courts.
Torres then filed a habeas corpus action in federal court claiming that he had not been advised of his right to consult with Mexican consular officials under the 1963 Vienna Convention to which the United States is a signatory. The federal courts denied Torres relief in these habeas proceedings, culminating in the denial by the United States Supreme Court to hear his claim, with Justices Breyer and Stevens dissenting.
Torres is one of 52 Mexicans on death row in the United States whose execution the government of Mexico seeks to prevent, claiming the failure of state authorities to advise the Mexicans of their right to consult with consular officials taints their convictions. Today’s New York Times reports that Torres’s execution will now await further proceedings in the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
Does the ICJ have jurisdiction to prevent these executions? The United States has argued that the ICJ does not exercise any judicial power of the United States, which is vested exclusively by the Constitution in the United States federal courts. To this Justice Breyer responded in his dissent from the Supreme Court’s refusal to hear the Torres case: “While this is undeniably correct as a general matter, it fails to address the question whether the ICJ has been granted the authority, by means of treaties to which the United States is a party, to interpret the rights conferred by the Vienna Convention. The answer to Lord Ellenborough
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