Breard v. Greene

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In Breard v. Greene, 523 U.S. 371, 375 (1998) (per curiam), the U.S. Supreme Court held that claims under the Vienna Convention (treaty) are subject to procedural default rules, such as state rules of procedure in criminal proceedings.

The case concerned the conviction and death penalty punishment for Angel Francisco Breard for the attempted rape and capital murder of Ruth Dickie. At his trial in 1993, the State presented overwhelming evidence of guilt, including DNA evidence. During his testimony, Breard confessed to killing Dickie, but explained that he had only done so because of a Satanic curse placed on him by his father-in-law. Following a jury trial in the Circuit Court of Arlington County, Virginia, Breard was convicted of both charges and sentenced to death.

Breard alleged that the Vienna Convention was violated when the arresting authorities failed to inform him that, as a foreign national, he had the right to contact the Paraguayan Consulate. The District Court rejected this claim, concluding that Breard procedurally defaulted the claim when he failed to raise it in state court and that Breard could not demonstrate cause and prejudice for this default. Breard v. Netherland, 949 F. Supp. 1255, 1266 (ED Va. 1996). The Fourth Circuit affirmed Breard v. Pruett, 134 F.3d 615, 620 (1998).

In September 1996, the Republic of Paraguay, the Ambassador of Paraguay to the United States, and the Consul General of Paraguay to the United States (collectively Paraguay) brought suit in Federal District Court against certain Virginia officials, alleging that their separate rights under the Vienna Convention had been violated by the Commonwealth's failure to inform Breard of his rights under the treaty and to inform the Paraguayan consulate of Breard's arrest, conviction, and sentence. In addition, the Consul General asserted a parallel claim under 42 U.S.C. ยง 1983, alleging a denial of his rights under the Vienna Convention. The District Court concluded that it lacked subject-matter jurisdiction over these suits because Paraguay was not alleging a "continuing violation of federal law" and therefore could not bring its claims within the exception to Eleventh Amendment immunity established in Ex parte Young, 209 U.S. 123, 52 L. Ed. 714, 28 S. Ct. 441 (1908). Republic of Paraguay v. Allen, 949 F. Supp. 1269, 1272-1273 (ED Va. 1996). The Fourth Circuit affirmed on Eleventh Amendment grounds. Republic of Paraguay v. Allen, 134 F.3d 622 (1998). Paraguay, in addition to Breard, petitioned the Supreme Court for a writ of certiorari.

The Court rejected Breard's claim in a per curiam decision accompanied by several dissents.

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