In 1918 Robert Ripley conceived and drew a cartoon he entitled "Believe It or Not!" which appeared in the New York Globe. It dealt with bizarre events and items so strange and unusual that readers might question them. In a recent decision by the United States Supreme Court three Justices took a position which would have made Ripley’s cartoon.
A straightforward case of murder was decided by a court in Texas which convicted confessed killer Jose Ernesto Medellin of rape and murder of two Houston teen-age girls in 1993 and sentenced him to death in 1994. Medellin’s conviction was brought before the International Court of Justice in The Hague, also known as the World Court, on the grounds that the conviction violated the 1963 Vienna Convention. This treaty purports to provide criminals arrested in countries other than their homeland access to their homelands consular officials. Medillin was in the United States illegally at the time of the crime and when he was arrested. Mexico took the case to the International Court of Justice and the court ruled in favor of Mexico. The World Court’s decision would apply not only to Medillan’s conviction but also to 50 other convicted Mexican nationals nationwide.
President Bush impressed by the World Court’s decision told Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to order the Texas court to reopen the Medillin case. The president said that his decision was reason enough for Texas to grant a new hearing in the case because we should abide by the World Court’s decision.
Fortunately for the rule of law according to our laws and constitution, the U.S. Supreme Court disagreed with the President and the World Court. Chief Justice Roberts wrote an 89 page opinion for a majority of six Justices that said while the congress had by acceptance of the treaty authorized the president to represent the United States before the United Nations, the International Court of Justice and the Security Council, his authority "speaks to the president’s international responsibilities, not unilateral authority to create domestic law."
"The authority expressly conferred by congress in the international realm cannot be said to ‘invite’ the presidential action here. At bottom, [nothing] supports the president’s claim that congress has acquiesced in his asserted power to establish his own federal law or to override state law."
California-based "Criminal Justice Legal Foundation" filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of the family of one of the murdered girls. They praised the Supreme Court ruling and said that the court made it clear that treaties do not override state law until and unless congress implements them with legislation.
So why should this case be an item for "Ripley’s Believe it or Not"; because three Supreme Court Justices held in favor of the supremacy of the World Court over U.S. and state law. Can you imagine what George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison would have said to that? They and others supported a revolution against foreign tyranny to create an independent country. Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer and David H. Souter would have the United States subject to the machinations of international law as dictated by the World Court and the American Constitution be damned.
Be very careful who you vote for in November or we may see many more Supreme Court decisions suitable for Ripley.