Supreme Court reverses itself, allows death sentence to stand for Texas inmate 

Terence Andrus was convicted of capital murder in the deaths of Avelino Diaz and Kim-Phuong Vu Bui in a 2008 attempted carjacking.

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The U.S. Supreme Court will let the death sentence of a Houston man stand, reversing a 2020 decision that sent the case back to a lower court. 

Per CNN, Terence Andrus — convicted of capital murder in 2008 at the age of 20 — argued that Texas courts didn’t follow an earlier Supreme Court ruling concerning his legal representation at trial and at sentencing, including whether or not Andrus was a danger to the community.

The case was returned to the high court after it reversed the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals’ affirmance of Andrus’ death sentence and sent the case back to it to further review claims of ineffective counsel in 2020. 

The U.S. Supreme Court will let the death sentence of convicted Houston murderer Terence Andrus (above) stand, reversing a 2020 decision that sent his case back to a lower court. (Photo: Texas Department of Criminal Justice) 

The Texas court ruled against Andrus without hearing oral arguments, prompting his case’s final return to the Supreme Court. 

Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer and Elena Kagan dissented.

Sotomayor noted that the lower court’s “defiance” of orders from the Supreme Court to reconsider Andrus’ background of mental health and a childhood that included a teenage mother who engaged in drug use and prostitution “substantially erodes confidence in the functioning of the legal system.” She maintained that the Texas court “erred in its analysis of prejudice as to both unpresented mitigating evidence and unexplored evidence rebutting the State’s case in aggravation.”

Andrus was convicted of shooting and killing Avelino Diaz and a bystander, Kim-Phuong Vu Bui, in an attempted carjacking in 2008 while under the influence of PCP-laced marijuana. He was sentenced to death for capital murder, but during his 2012 sentencing, the jury had questions about whether he was a danger to society.

Per The Houston Chronicle, Andrus still has a federal appeal pending. His attorney, Gretchen Sween, called the reversal a “crippling blow to the rule of law.”

“It is shocking,” she said, “that a majority of the Supreme Court did not feel compelled to defend the integrity of its own previous opinion in this very case — which is only two years old.” 

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