The Supreme Court today affirms the death sentence of a Mexican citizen for the 2003 Riverside County murders of his ex-girlfriend’s grandmother and brother.  The court’s unanimous opinion by Justice Carol Corrigan in People v. Leon rejects, among other arguments, the defendant’s claim his confessions should have been excluded from evidence because, in part, the police failed to comply with the Vienna Convention and with a state statute that require foreign nationals be told of their right to have their consulates notified of their arrests.

According to the opinion, the defendant’s consular notice claim is a narrow one, only that the lack of notice is a factor establishing his Miranda rights waiver was not knowing or intelligent.  The court concludes, however, that the “defendant has established no relation whatsoever between his confession and the lack of consular notice.”

Although signing the court’s opinion, Justice Mariano-Florentino Cuéllar writes a separate concurrence about the Vienna Convention.  Speaking of the government’s “obligation to ensure the Vienna Convention’s worth the paper on which it’s printed,” he says that the case demonstrates “a troubling failure of police to fulfill the treaty’s obligations,” that “implicit in our country’s promise to honor the Vienna Convention are issues of right, remedy, and responsibility that call for more — and more serious — attention,” and that, although no remedies, such as suppression of statements, are appropriate for the defendant in this case, “today’s opinion should not be read to suggest that remedies are always unavailable for a consular notification violation.”

Justice Cuéllar’s opinion finishes with an apparent comment on American government honesty.  Talking about consular notice obligations “slip[ping] through the cracks,” he remarks, “By repairing those cracks, we remind the world that, at least in some corners of the country, our word is our bond.”