Supreme Court refuses appeal from condemned San Antonio man
HOUSTON (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused an appeal from a San Antonio man on Texas’ death row for the gang rape and fatal stabbing of a 15-year-old girl in 1996.
The high court decision upholds a 2-1 ruling last year from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which rejected arguments from lawyers for condemned prisoner Carlos Trevino that his trial attorneys were deficient for not showing jurors his mother’s drinking while she was pregnant with him left Trevino with fetal alcohol disorder. Attorneys argued the disorder could have contributed to his violent behavior and persuaded jurors to sentence him to life in prison rather than death.
The Supreme Court majority had no comment on its decision. Justice Sonia Sotomayor dissented and was joined by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.
In 2012, the high court returned Trevino’s case to lower courts for review of the ineffective legal help claim, which eventually led to the 5th Circuit ruling a year ago.
The 5th Circuit ruling was a “flagrant error” and the Supreme Court decision Monday was “indefensible,” Sotomayor said in her 13-page dissent.
She pointed to arguments from Trevino’s appeals lawyers who submitted new expert testimony that said while jurors at Trevino’s 1997 trial in San Antonio were aware his mother had alcohol problems, they were unaware of the extent of the damage to him. A mitigation expert said Trevino weighed only 4 pounds at birth, was not potty-trained until he was 6 and wore diapers at night until he was 8. He dropped out of school in the ninth grade and could read only at a third-grade level, according to court filings.
“She drank 18 to 24 beers per day during pregnancy, resulting in Trevino’s developmental delay,” Sotomayor wrote, adding that the high court’s failure to intervene “sanctions the taking of a life by the state.”
Trevino’s trial lawyers presented only one witness during his punishment hearing, an aunt who testified briefly about his rough childhood and his mother’s alcoholism.
A favorable ruling from the Supreme Court could have resulted in a new punishment hearing for Trevino, 43.
He does not yet have an execution date.
Trevino was 21, belonged to the Pisteleros street gang and had been released from prison a month earlier after an auto theft conviction when Linda Salinas was raped and fatally stabbed at a San Antonio park. Three others were convicted in her slaying, but only Trevino received a death sentence.