Breard v. Greene, The Republic of Paraguay v. Gilmore
523 U.S. 371 (1998)

  • Breard was a Paraguayan national who was arrested in Virginia on suspicion of murdering someone.
    • At the time of his arrest he was not warned that he had a right to contact the Paraguayan Embassy.
    • Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Rights 36(1)(b), foreign nationals have a right to contact their embassy when arrested.
      • The US was a party to the Convention.
  • At Trial, Breard failed to raise a defense based on the Vienna Convention. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
  • Paraguay went to the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and asked that Breard's conviction be voided because it violated an international treaty.
  • ICJ issued a temporary injunction and told the US to "take all measures at its disposal to ensure that Breard was not executed pending a final decision."
  • Breard and Paraguay went the US Supreme Court and requested a stay of execution.
    • The US State Dept. filed an Amicus brief saying that executing Breard would hurt the rights of US citizens abroad.
    • The US Justice Dept. filed and Amicus brief saying that the Federal government no power to stop a sentence issued by a State court.
  • The US Supreme Court denied the stay of execution.
    • The US Supreme Court found that Breard procedurally defaulted on his claim by not bringing it up at Trial.
    • The Court found that the procedural rules of the forum State govern the implementation of the treaty in that State.
      • Basically, the Vienna Convention is still the law in Virginia, but it is up to Virginia courts to determine how the law will be applied. In this case, Virginia procedural rules are that any claims you don't bring up at Trial are waived, so Breard had a right to use the Vienna Convention as a defense, he just waived it.
        • Compare to what would have happened if the police hadn't read Breard a Miranda Warning. Even though that's a violation of the 5th Amendment, if you don't bring it up at trail, you can't bring it up on appeal.
  • Breard was executed.
  • The US went back to the ICJ and said that they "took all measures at their disposal to ensure Breard was not executed," but he was executed anyway.
  • Paraguay dropped the ICJ claim.