Press Release
From the Office of State Senator Rodney Ellis

For Immediate Release
March 9, 2005
Contact: Jeremy Warren, (512) 463-0113
Jenee Gonzales Garza, (512)463-0126

Van de Putte, Ellis Call for Swift Action on Consular Notification
- Senators echo President Bush's Order to Examine Death Row Cases for Foreign Nationals -

(Austin, TX) -- Senators Leticia Van de Putte (D-San Antonio) and Rodney Ellis (D-Ellis) today announced their strong support of President' Bush's directive that states review capital convictions of foreign nationals on death row, and called on the legislature to move swiftly to address the issue.

President Bush yesterday informed the U.S. Supreme Court that he would order states, including Texas, to review these cases to investigate whether foreign nationals' rights were violated under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations when local consulates were not notified of their arrests.

"President Bush's order is a step in the right direction because it recognizes the importance of U.S. courts to comply with established international laws and rights," Van de Putte stated.

"Texas is not above the law," said Ellis. "The United States, whose flag and laws we live under, signed the Vienna Convention. That means all 50 states must abide by the tenets of that treaty. It is time for Texas to stop stalling and start working to ensure we abide by the law of the land."

Both Senators have filed legislation to ensure foreign nationals are aware of their rights if arrested or detained. Ellis has filed SB 603, which would require that when foreign nationals are arrested or detained, they must be advised of their right to have their consular officials notified. Van de Putte has filed SB 640, which would provide procedures to notify the foreign consular officials on the arrest of foreign nationals and to allow for communications between those consular officials and arrested persons. Ellis first filed legislation requiring consular notification in 2001.

Senator Van de Putte and Senator Ellis have worked hand-in-hand on this issue for the last year. They have worked closely with two prominent Texas law school professors-- Reynaldo Anaya Valencia of Saint Mary's University School of Law and Craig L. Jackson, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law -- to understand and interpret how the International Court of Justice's (ICJ) order in the Case Concerning Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States of America) affects Texas and 15 of the 16 foreign nationals on Texas's death row. The article will soon be published in the Yale Law and Policy Review.

Last year, Van de Putte and Ellis submitted a letter to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott inquiring on the official position of Texas to the ICJ order. General Abbott responded by stating, "we do not believe the Supreme Court [American courts] are bound by the ICJ's decision in Avena."

"This is about fairness. We would want our citizens to have their rights honored and due process followed if they were found in the same situation in a foreign country," commented Senator Van de Putte.

"Better late than never," said Ellis. "I am pleased that President Bush has stepped up to the plate on this important issue. It is time for Texas to follow President Bush's lead and pass legislation that will ensure foreign nationals get the same treatment here that we demand American citizens receive abroad."