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US Supreme Court DEclines to Hear Death Penalty Case


The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear a closely watched death penalty case on Monday, but the issue could make its way back to the high court later. Meanwhile, the court is preparing to re-enter the divisive debate over the issue of abortion.

The high court dismissed an appeal from a Mexican national awaiting execution in Texas. Jose Medellin is one of 51 Mexicans who wants his case reviewed because they were denied their right of access to Mexican consular officials after they were arrested.

By a ruling of five to four, the Supreme Court declined to review the merits of the case, which has drawn international attention. The case will now go back to a Texas appeals court, but could make its way back to the Supreme Court after that.

In February, President Bush agreed to comply with a decision by the World Court requesting new hearings in Texas for the 51 Mexicans on death row. The president later withdrew the United States from a treaty that gives the World Court the authority to get involved in future U.S. cases.

On another issue, the Supreme Court has decided to re-enter the politically divisive issue of abortion.

The high court has agreed to hear a case in September involving a law that requires parents be notified if their child intends to have an abortion.

The Supreme Court last issued a major ruling on abortion in 2000. The decision to review the abortion law comes at a time when liberal and conservative activists are preparing for a possible vacancy on the Supreme Court, the first one in more than 10 years.

The case comes to the court amid concern about the health of conservative Chief Justice William Rehnquist, who is battling thyroid cancer.

Abortion opponents say they will push President Bush to nominate a strong foe of abortion should a Supreme Court vacancy occur.

Reverend Pat Robertson is head of the Christian Broadcasting Network and a leading figure among conservative Christian voters. "The greatest cause of domestic political discord is the usurpation of legislative and executive power by non-elected judges," he said.

Democrats have vowed to protect the narrow five to four majority in favor of abortion rights on the Supreme Court.

Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean spoke on NBC's Meet the Press program. "The issue is not whether we think abortion is a good thing. The issue is whether a woman has a right to make up her own mind about her health care," he said.

The major ruling legalizing abortion on the high court came in a 1973 decision known as Roe Versus Wade.

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