- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 15, 2000

NEW YORK The United States yesterday accused Germany before the World Court of attempting to "litigate the death penalty" by seeking compensation for the execution of two German murderers.
Germany, a long-time U.S. ally, wants the International Court of Justice based in The Hague to condemn the United States for violating the 1963 Vienna Convention by not notifying Karl and Walter LaGrand of their right to be represented by German counsel. It also wants the court to recognize its right to seek reparations in the case.
Representing the United States, James Thessin of the State Department, suggested the case was a ruse to "litigate the death penalty under the guise of a violation" of the Vienna Convention.
"We must not allow Germany to lead us into … restructuring the United States criminal justice system," he said.
Prior to the LaGrands' executions last year, Germany appealed to the World Court and won an order staying the execution. After Arizona ignored the ruling and went ahead with the executions, Germany went back to the court and sought unspecified reparations.
The facts of the case are not in dispute.
In 1982, the two brothers, then in their early 20s, botched a bank robbery in Tucson, Ariz., during which they stabbed the 63-year-old branch manager to death and badly wounded a bank teller who lived to testify against them.
The LaGrands were sentenced to death under Arizona law. However, state authorities failed to notify the German consulate that two of its citizens had been arrested as required by the Vienna Convention.
Mr. Thessin told the court yesterday that Washington had already apologized to the German government for Arizona's failure to tell the consulate of the arrest.
"Neither the interests of Germany, nor the interests of the United States, nor the interests of the international community as a whole are served if this court accepts Germany's invitation to distort the requirements of the consular convention," Mr. Thessin said.
"The consular convention cannot properly be read to dictate to a state how its domestic criminal justice system is to be structured," he said.
Arizona's attorney general, Janet Napolitano, reminded the court's 15 judges that the LaGrands were executed only after a decade and a half of appeals in four different courts.
"There should be no doubt that the LaGrands received a fair trial," she said. "They received all of the protections that an American citizen would have received."
The attorney general also reminded the court of "the especially cruel, heinous and depraved nature" of the LaGrands' crime and of a prior felony conviction for a violent offense.
"A horrible murder was committed simply because two men were frustrated when they tried to rob a bank," she argued.
On Jan. 7, 1982, the brothers went into a rage when the bank manager was unable to open the safe, repeatedly stabbing him in the chest with a letter opener.
The United States is repeatedly censured by the European Union, United Nations, countries in Latin America and other international bodies for imposing the death penalty.
American lawyers also accused the Germans yesterday of hypocrisy in pursuing the case.
New York University human rights scholar Theodor Meron pointed out that foreign citizens have been arrested in Germany without being given consular notification. He said Germany went so far as to oppose the quashing of their convictions "in drastic contrast to the LaGrand case."
"Germany attempts to have a different standard applied to the United States than that which it follows in its own national practice," Mr. Meron said.
Miss Napolitano noted that two other German brothers are on death row in Arizona, but she said Germany took no action to provide assistance when it was informed of their arrest in 1989.
She also said state courts had taken all evidence into account in the LaGrands' case and consular assistance wouldn't have changed a thing.
The German government finally learned of the LaGrands' plight in 1992, a decade after the crime, when other inmates apparently told the brothers to seek help.
The State Department has begun distributing information to state and local law enforcement authorities, reminding them of their international obligations.
However, in a filing to the World Court in March, U.S. authorities noted that despite their legal status, the LaGrand brothers appeared in all respects to be citizens of the United States.
The boys were born in Germany to a German mother and an American soldier, and moved to the United States at the ages of 3 and 5. They spoke little or no German, and even their adoptive father thought they had become U.S. citizens, according to the brief.

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