High court weighs rights of foreign defendants

Associated Press
Published March 30, 2006

WASHINGTON - Supreme Court justices had tough questions Wednesday as lawyers representing two foreigners convicted of violent crimes in the United States argued that police had violated the men's rights.

Lawyers for the two men - one from Honduras, the other from Mexico - told the court that police should have told them they could seek legal help from their countries' governments, as required by a 1969 treaty.

The men are Mario Bustillo, a Honduran convicted of killing a Virginia teen with a baseball bat, and Moises Sanchez-Llamas, a Mexican convicted of attempted murder for wounding an Oregon police officer in a 1999 gunfight.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked why police - and not the men's attorneys - should be required to inform foreign suspects of their treaty rights.

"If a Miranda warning is given, it seems to me that comprehends the relief you need," Kennedy said, referring to the police practice of telling suspects they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Presumably, a defense attorney knows or should know that foreign suspects have the right to contact their consulate, Kennedy and other justices said.

The 1969 Vienna Convention requires "competent authorities" to tell a consulate when a foreign national is arrested and to allow the consulate to communicate with the detained person. U.S. citizens have the same rights if they are arrested in one of the 168 countries that signed the treaty.

Court hears arguments in eBay patent fight

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court debated the rights of inventors Wednesday, weighing in on a dispute between eBay and a small Virginia patent holder.

The case's outcome could mean millions of dollars for inventors working in their garages or in large pharmaceutical labs - including those who develop a product and those who opt only to patent ideas.

The dispute between eBay, the Web-based marketplace, and MercExchange is one of several high-profile legal battles that are calling attention to the nation's patent laws, which some critics - including Amazon.com, Yahoo! and Xerox Corp. - say need updating to keep up with rapidly changing technology.