Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Virginia case being argued before Supreme Court this week

The Bustillo case from Fairfax County is being argued before the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

According to AG McDonnell's office, "[t]he case of Mario Bustillo v. Commonwealth of Virginia centers on the rights of foreign nationals in criminal cases in the United States," as it involves "questions of whether the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations Treaty can create rights that can be enforced in courts, and, if so, whether the Treaty requires the Virginia Courts to ignore Virginia law on procedural default."

The LII has this preview of the argument, including a link to Bustillo's brief.

The appeal is from the denial of post-conviction relief by the Virginia Supreme Court, which refused to hear Bustillo's petition raising international law issues because of procedural defaults. Of the original trial, the LII summary says:

"On December 10, 1997 Petitioner Bustillo, a Honduran national, was arrested after several eye-witnesses identified him as the man who struck and killed a man with a baseball bat. See Bustillo’s Brief at 4-5. Bustillo and other witnesses maintain that another Honduran national known as ‘Sirena’ committed the murder. See Bustillo’s Brief at 5. Like Sanchez-Llamas, Bustillo was never told of the Vienna Convention treaty that would allow him to speak with the Honduran Consulate and the police never notified the Honduran Consulate of Bustillo’s arrest. See Bustillo’s Brief at 5-6. Based only on the eye-witness testimony, Bustillo was convicted of first-degree murder. See Bustillo’s Brief at 6-7. On appeal, counsel realized that Bustillo was never advised of his right to consular communication and was informed that the Honduran Consulate would have provided assistance at trial had they known of his arrest and indictment. See Bustillo’s Brief at 8-9."

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