U.S. Supreme Court

Sotomayor argues Texas court defied SCOTUS ruling in ineffective counsel case

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The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear the case of a death row inmate who successfully argued two years ago that he received ineffective assistance of counsel.

The high court refused to hear the case of Terence Andrus, who was sentenced to death for an attempted carjacking in 2008 in which he killed the car owner and a bystander. He was under the influence of PCP-laced marijuana at the time.

In 2020, the Supreme Court had ruled that Andrus’ trial lawyer provided ineffective assistance by failing to introduce evidence of a childhood “filled with violence and abuse.” Andrus’ mother had sold drugs, engaged in prostitution, left the children without enough food to eat, and exposed the children to violence through her boyfriends.

On remand, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that Andrus failed to show prejudice from his lawyer’s performance and was not entitled to habeas relief under Strickland v. Washington, 1984 Supreme Court case that established the standard for determining when a criminal defendant’s Sixth Amendment right to counsel is violated by the counsel’s inadequate performance.

Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented from the cert denial in an opinion joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer. She argued that the Texas high court had failed to follow the Supreme Court ruling by dismissing the evidence deemed to be compelling and powerful by the Supreme Court.

“Andrus’ case cries out for intervention, and it is particularly vital that this court act when necessary to protect against defiance of its precedents,” Sotomayor wrote. “The court, however, denies certiorari. I would summarily reverse, and I respectfully dissent from the court’s failure to do so.”

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