U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear Texas death penalty case of Carlos Ayestas

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to consider the case of Carlos Ayestas, a Honduran national who was sentenced to death in Harris County, Texas in 1997.  This is the third death penalty case out of Harris County to be granted cert by the Justices in the last year. See the statement from Ayestas’ attorneys below.

Statement from Attorneys for Petitioner in Response to Today’s Grant of Certiorari in Ayestas v. Davis

April 3, 2017

Below is a statement from the attorneys:

“Mr. Ayestas’s case is about the right to be fairly charged and defended.  From the charging decision through the federal habeas process, Mr. Ayestas has been denied his constitutional right to nondiscriminatory treatment and effective representation; these are rights to which all criminal defendants, especially those facing a death sentence, are entitled.

This is a case in which the District Attorney’s charging memo recommended the death penalty, in part, because ‘THE DEFENDANT IS NOT A CITIZEN.’  While seeking death on these grounds, the State appointed counsel to Mr. Ayestas who failed to conduct the background investigation capable of sparing his life. Prison mental health staff diagnosed Mr. Ayestas with schizophrenia soon after trial, but his sentencing jury heard nothing about his mental health.  Although federal law guarantees indigent capital defendants representation in federal proceedings, the lower courts denied Mr. Ayestas the resources he needed to litigate the constitutional failures of his trial counsel.

We look forward to appearing before the Supreme Court and have faith that the Fifth Circuit’s decision denying him a meaningful opportunity to be heard will be reversed.”

– Lee B. Kovarsky, Postconviction Director for the Texas Defender Service; Callie Heller, Staff Attorney, Texas Defender Service

Briefing in Ayestas v. Davis

To speak with counsel for Mr. Ayestas, please contact: Kate Black, Director of Communications, Texas Defender Service, at kateblack@texasdefender.org713-222-7788 (o) or 303-818-370 (c).

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Read coverage from the Austin American-Statesman, the Texas Tribune, and Courthouse News Service.