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Texas declines new punishment trial for death row inmate in 2008 slayings

Terence Andrus was sentenced to death in 2012 for the murders of Avelino Diaz and Kim-Phuong Vu Bui. File Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Terence Andrus was sentenced to death in 2012 for the murders of Avelino Diaz and Kim-Phuong Vu Bui. File Photo courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice

May 19 (UPI) -- The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday declined to grant a new punishment trial to a man on death row for the 2008 shooting deaths of two people.

Terence Andrus, 33, was sentenced to death in 2012 for the murders of Avelino Diaz and Kim-Phuong Vu Bui.

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The criminal appeals court's decision came despite a June 2020 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court which said Andrus had ineffective counsel during his trial. The high court said the Texas appeals court should review whether the "abundant" amount of mitigating evidence not presented during the trial should mean he deserves another punishment trial.

After review, though, the Texas court denied relief.

"The mitigating evidence is not particularly compelling, and the aggravating evidence is extensive," the ruling said.

The four dissenting members of the panel, though, said the Texas court is "bound" by the Supreme Court's interpretation in the case.

Andrus' attorney, Gretchen Sween, said the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled without considering the evidence the Supreme Court "found to be critical."

"The integrity of our judicial system is undermined when individuals facing the ultimate punishment are represented by incompetent counsel," she said. "The system is further burdened when death penalty cases ping-pong between our nation's highest court and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals because of a failure to address egregious constitutional violations. Because the Supreme Court's directives to the CCA were so clear, we have no recourse but to turn again to our nation's highest court to right the wrong."

Sween said Andrus' trial counsel failed to investigate the "vast and readily available evidence" of his "troubled upbringing," including his mother's prostitution and drug dealing, him being left to care for his siblings when his mother abandoned them, and his own drug addiction, multiple suicide attempts and history of mental health issues.

She said the jury wasn't presented with "a complete or accurate picture" of Andrus so they had no reason to spare his life.

Andrus was convicted of fatally shooting Diaz during an unsuccessful car jacking in a Fort Bend County Kroger parking lot. He then shot Kim Bui and her husband, Steve Bui, who were in another vehicle. Steve Bui was able to drive his wife to a Houston hospital, where she was declared dead.

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