Edgar Noel Vieyra was to have been arraigned last week in Fayette Circuit Court on a capital murder charge in the death of his ex-girlfriend's father, but the arraignment was put off until Aug. 3 to allow time for the Consulate of Mexico in Indianapolis to be contacted about Vieyra's case.
Under Article 36 of the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Vieyra, as a Mexican national, is entitled to request that the consular office be notified of his situation, said Tom Griffiths, manager of the state Department of Public Advocacy's capital trial branch and head of the Lexington public defender's office.
So, instead of entering a plea on Vieyra's behalf on the murder and other charges on July 20, Griffiths invoked the Vienna Convention.
"They had not done so, so we refused to enter a plea until they followed the law," Griffiths said of prosecutors.
Fayette Commonwealth's Attorney Ray Larson said Thursday that his office had faxed a notice about Vieyra's case to the consulate in Indianapolis.
"We just filled out the form that's on the State Department Web site," Larson said. "They have to figure out what, if any, assistance they're going to provide to their citizen. We've done what we're required to do, and that's notify them. It's on them to figure out what they're going to do."
Juan Manuel Solana, consul of the Mexican consulate in Indianapolis, told a Herald-Leader reporter Friday that he was not aware of Vieyra's case. He said his office receives hundreds of faxes a week.
"Now that we know about the case, we will start looking at him immediately," Solana said. "First, I've got to prove this person is Mexican."
The consulate has a group of lawyers who might get involved in Vieyra's case, "depending on what we find," Solana said.
Vieyra, 18, is accused of shooting Librado Romero, the father of his former girlfriend, at Romero's home on Wayland Drive in Lexington on May 7. Romero, 44, died two days later after being taken off life support. In addition to capital murder, Vieyra is charged with first-degree assault for allegedly shooting and wounding Maria Vera-Reyes, Romero's wife. Vieyra also is charged with two counts of second-degree assault for allegedly shooting and wounding Nallely Romero, his ex-girlfriend, and for allegedly striking Jenny Romero Bryant, his ex-girlfriend's sister, with a gun. In addition, Vieyra faces a count of first-degree burglary and a count of violating a Kentucky emergency protective or domestic violence order.
Vieyra, a Georgetown resident, was indicted by a Fayette grand jury July 10. Police said Vieyra told authorities he targeted Librado Romero in response to threats against his life.
On July 20, Vieyra and Fayette Circuit Judge Kimberly Bunnell signed a document in which Vieyra stated he wanted the consular office notified of his situation. The document says Vieyra may communicate with consular officers and that a consular officer might help him obtain legal representation. It also said a consular officer may contact his family and visit him in jail, among other things.
Griffiths said the Vienna Convention is particularly important in Vieyra's case because prosecutors could seek the death penalty.
"I think people just either don't know about it or just choose not to do anything about it," he said.
"It's the first time I've had a foreign national charged with a capital offense," Griffiths said. "My client is 18 years old, and he is terrified by every part of the court system. He has little to no understanding of the court system."
Vieyra's being a foreign national led Griffiths to turn to law books and the Internet to study how best to represent him, the public defender said. Then Griffiths remembered a conference he'd attended about a year ago that addressed foreign nationals and the law, he said.
"When the police and prosecutors don't follow this law (Vienna Convention) we intend to call them on it," he said.
Jennifer Hewlett: (859) 231-3308.Twitter: @HLPublicSafety.