A Bigger Question

by TChris

Whether a foreign citizen has a meaningful remedy when a state or local government fails to comply with the Vienna Convention, which requires the government to notify him of his right to seek assistance from his consulate, is a question the Supreme Court will soon resolve. This unusually insightful Washington Post editorial argues that the notification issue is less important than the actual innocence of Mario Bustillo, one of the men who brought the issue to the Court.

His counsel asserted that another man, identified by his street name, "Sirena," committed the crime. But Sirena could not be found or even identified. So when a defense witness claimed to have seen him on a flight to Honduras the day after Mr. Merry died, the jury understandably did not credit her.

In the years after the killing, however, it has emerged that police saw this man, since identified as Julio Osorto, in the vicinity of the crime and that he had -- as a police report records -- ketchup-like stains on his clothes. Honduran immigration records verify that he did arrive back in Honduras the very day the defense claimed. What's more, in a surreptitiously recorded videotape, he allegedly confessed to the killing. The Virginia courts ruled that the police report concerning Mr. Osorto was exculpatory and that the commonwealth had improperly withheld it from the defense. Yet, amazingly, they went on to determine that it would not have made a difference at trial. So Mr. Bustillo's conviction stands.

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  • Re: A Bigger Question (none / 0) (#1)
    by Talkleft Visitor on Mon Apr 10, 2006 at 03:33:41 PM EST
    The editorial is true enough but if it is so "insightful," does it mean its conclusion that on the point the Supremes accepted cert. the question is "easy" (they should lose) true? Also, one reason for the notification is to make a case more of a cause celebre, to raise the possibility that evidence of innocence like this would be made more apparent given the involvement of the consulate will make it an int'l incident. This too was ignored by the editorial which seems so concerned about the surely fundamental question of innocence (less likely to be a matter of SC review btw) that it seems to downgrade the still important issue that was argued.