The U.S. Supreme Court agreed yesterday to hear the Texas death penalty case of a Honduran national who argues that a federal appeals court wrongly denied him resources to investigate and provide evidence of substance abuse and mental illness. Advocates for Carlos Ayestas believe that if a jury had heard he had a history of cocaine addiction and mental illness, they may not have sentenced him to death for his role in a 1995 murder during a Houston home invasion, the Texas Tribune reports. State officials reject such speculation.
A memo discovered in 2014 showed the Harris County District Attorney initially listed one reason to pursue the death penalty in Ayestas’ case was that he was living in Houston illegally. Now, after almost 20 years on death row, 47-year-old Ayestas’ case will be reviewed by the nation’s highest court. Ayestas claims the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals wrongly denied him resources to investigate and produce evidence that his previous lawyers failed to raise in trial and state appeals.