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High court proceedings include details of Medford case

Staff and wire reports

WASHINGTON ' for two foreign nationals convicted of violent crimes ' including Moises Sanchez-Llamas, who wounded a Medford police officer in 1999 ' pressed the Supreme Court Wednesday to overturn their convictions.

for Sanchez-Llamas, of Mexico, and Honduran national Mario Bustillo, who was convicted of killing a Virginia teen with a baseball bat, contended police violated the men's rights by not telling them they could seek legal help from their countries' governments, as required by a 1969 treaty.

But justices appeared skeptical.

Justice Anthony M. Kennedy asked why police ' and not the men's attorneys ' should be required to inform them of their right to seek legal help from their countries' consulates.

If the lawyer does not inform the client, that could be the basis for a claim of ineffective counsel ' not a violation of the treaty, said Justice Stephen Breyer.

— But Mark Stancil, a lawyer representing Bustillo, said a defense lawyer may have a conflict of interest.

The first words out of the mouth of the consulate (official) could be, 'Fire this guy and get a new lawyer,' Stancil said.

Peter Gartlan, a lawyer representing Sanchez-Llamas, who was convicted of attempted murder for wounding officer Scott Clauson in a 1999 gunfight, asked the justices to place themselves in the shoes of an American held abroad, say in Damascus, Syria.

If you are given a dime and you can call a local attorney assigned by the (Syrian) court, or the U.S. consulate, you are going to call the consulate, Gartlan said. It's more comfortable, more familiar to deal with a fellow American.

Similarly, he said foreigners in this country should be allowed to seek help from their governments.

Justice Antonin Scalia challenged that argument, saying although talking to a countryman may be more comfortable, the consulate may be less helpful than a local attorney, who should be more familiar with local law.

The court's decision, expected before July, could affect the appeals of thousands of foreign citizens in U.S. prisons and jails.

Under the 1969 Vienna Convention, foreigners arrested in the United States have a right to contact their consulate. U.S. citizens have the same right if they are arrested in one of the 168 countries that signed the treaty.

Police in the United States do not routinely tell arrested foreign nationals they can call their consulate. Some legal experts say requiring them to do so could amount to an expansion of so-called Miranda rights, which require police to tell suspects they have the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.

Sanchez-Llamas was sentenced to nearly 20 years in prison for attempted murder. He opened fire on Clauson and Mike Strouse on Dec. 18, 1999, when the two officers responded to a reported domestic disturbance involving an armed man behind a duplex on South Columbus Avenue. One of the bullets hit Clauson, fracturing his right femur, which required surgery.

Although police told Sanchez-Llamas in English and Spanish he had a right to a lawyer, they did not say he had a right to contact the Mexican consulate in Portland, about 270 miles away.

Sanchez-Llamas claims his pretrial statements to police should not have been allowed as evidence. The Oregon Supreme Court disagreed, ruling last year that treaty rights under the Vienna Convention can only be enforced by signatory governments, not individual suspects.

Bustillo is serving a 30-year prison sentence in the 1997 slaying of 18-year-old James Merry outside a Popeyes Restaurant in Springfield, Va. Bustillo's new are trying to win a new trial.

Last year, justices considered another case involving a Mexican national on death row in Texas, but dismissed the case without a ruling after President Bush ordered a new state court hearing for the man.

The cases are Bustillo v. Johnson, 05-51, and Sanchez-Llamas v. Oregon, 04-10566.

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