U.S. Supreme Court rules Texas death row inmate had an ineffective lawyer, orders new review

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The United States Supreme Court in Washington on June 11. Reynolds Stefani/CNP/ABACA via REUTERS

The U.S. Supreme Court has again ruled against Texas’ top criminal court in a death penalty case, the latest in the high court’s repeated dismissals of Texas decisions against death row inmates.

In a 19-page opinion on a 6-3 ruling Monday, the justices sent Terence Andrus’ case back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for further review. They said the court must again examine whether the “abundant” amount of mitigating evidence not presented at Andrus’ trial should warrant a new punishment trial to decide if he should get lethal injection or life in prison without parole. Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Clarence Thomas dissented.

Andrus was sentenced to death in 2012 for two 2008 shooting deaths in Fort Bend County during an unsuccessful carjacking attempt. Last year, the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected the trial court’s recommendation on appeal that Andrus get a new punishment trial because his lawyer failed to raise potentially sentence-changing evidence.

Terence Andrus.

Terence Andrus. Texas Department of Criminal Justice

The Supreme Court ruling focused on the evidence that could have been used to sway the jury from a death sentence. This includes his mother’s drug addiction and prostitution, his role as caretaker for his siblings when his mother would disappear, his own drug abuse, multiple suicide attempts and a diagnosis of psychosis.