Virginia Supreme Court Issues Rare Order

Permits death penalty in case involving Vienna Convention rights

VIRGINIA BEACH, VA , January 20, 2006 — On Thursday, Jan. 19 the Supreme Court of Virginia intervened in a Fairfax County capital murder case, and overruled a judge who had ruled that a Vietnamese man could not be subjected to the death penalty because police violated his Vienna Convention rights by not informing him that he could contact his embassy.

Initially, the trial judge had prohibited the prosecutor from seeking the death penalty against Dinh Pham, citing provisions of the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, which was created to provide protections for people arrested in another country.    


Pham, 34, of Annandale is accused of the 2004 murders of Loan P. Nguyen, 30, and her 22-month-old daughter, Ashley N. Ton.


At the request of the Commonwealth’s Attorney for Fairfax County , the Virginia Supreme Court intervened and permitted the prosecutor to seek the death penalty.


About L. Steven Emmert

Appellate lawyer L. Steven Emmert of Virginia Beach authors the Web site “Virginia Appellate News & Analysis” at  He is available to the media as an Expert Resource for comment, analysis, and help wading through the legalese of the ruling at (757) 965-5000.  Emmert is also Chairman of the Appellate Practice Subcommittee for the Virginia State Bar’s Litigation Section.


L. Steven Emmert contact ,
(757) 965-5000