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A Mexican government official who assists Mexican nationals facing the death penalty in the U.S. testified Tuesday in Georgia’s DeKalb Superior Court on behalf of an accused cop killer. Victor M. Uribe-Avi�a, an attorney with Mexico’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, testified that one of his government’s highest priorities is to assist Mexicans in avoiding the death penalty. That priority, which stems from Mexico’s opposition to capital punishment, led Uribe-Avi�a to testify on behalf of Mexican national Bautista Ramirez, accused of the May 2000 shooting death of Doraville, Ga., police officer Hugo Arango. Ramirez’s defense lawyers, Thomas M. West and Dwight L. Thomas, contend that when their client was arrested, law officers never informed him that he had the right to consult with someone from his country’s consulate. The 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, an international treaty signed by the United States, provides for that right, West and Thomas argue. TREATY RIGHTS CITED At Tuesday’s motions hearing before DeKalb Superior Court Judge Gail C. Flake, Uribe-Avi�a testified that Mexicans arrested and charged with a crime in the United States are accorded certain rights under the Vienna Convention. Those rights, he said, include the right to freely communicate with the Mexican consulate, to be informed of the right to communicate with the consulate, and to be told without delay that police will notify the consulate of the arrest. Ramirez was captured and arrested May 18, 2000, in a wooded area of Cherokee County, after a massive manhunt by law enforcement agencies. Cherokee Sheriff Roger Garrison testified that neither he nor anyone else he knew told Ramirez of his rights under the Vienna Convention at the time of his arrest. At the time, Garrison said he was only “vaguely” familiar with the treaty requirements. Now, Garrison told West, he is developing procedures so that foreign nationals who are arrested will be told of their rights to request a consular representative. West asked if that was a result of the Ramirez case. Garrison answered it was. Defense lawyers and Mexican officials say the Mexican consulate in Atlanta was not notified when Ramirez was arrested. Uribe-Avi�a, however, conceded that the Atlanta consulate knew of Ramirez’s situation from the extensive media coverage. JUDGE ASKED TO BAR DEATH PENALTY West and Thomas contend that a judicial remedy is warranted for law enforcement’s violation of the Vienna Convention. They are asking Flake to prohibit the state from seeking the death penalty against Ramirez, or in the alternative, to suppress a statement their client made to authorities, allegedly confessing to shooting Arango. Uribe-Avi�a was questioned by Texas attorney Sandra Babcock, who represents the Mexican government. Uribe-Avi�a testified that informing Mexican nationals of their rights under the Vienna Convention is critical because many Mexicans are unfamiliar with the U.S. legal system and don’t understand their legal options. Prompt notification is crucial, he testified. “One of the first things you tell [a Mexican national] is: Give no statement without an attorney present.” And, he added, he tells them they have the right to a lawyer. Uribe-Avi�a said he understands law enforcement’s duty to inform suspects of their Miranda rights, but consular notification “goes beyond Miranda” because it covers possible mistreatment of the suspect. Consular officials can provide formal legal assistance in addition to advice and can do so throughout the defendant’s legal proceedings. Under cross-examination by Charles C. Olson, a senior staff attorney for the Prosecuting Attorneys Council, Uribe-Avi�a said the Mexican government has filed no formal protest about Ramirez’s treatment. It has not sent a diplomatic note, a formal type of complaint, either. He acknowledged that the consulate has been able to consult with Ramirez during his stay in the DeKalb jail. DeKalb prosecutors have acknowledged that Ramirez was entitled to notification of his Vienna Convention rights, but they dispute that there is a judicial remedy available when a violation occurs.

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