A federal appeals court does not agree that Michael Yowell's rights were violated in his death penalty case. Yowell stands convicted of shooting his father, strangling his mother, and then blowing up their Central Lubbock house in 1998.
Last year, U.S. District Court Judge Sam Cummings ruled Yowell had been denied both due process and effective assistance of counsel. "The actions of Yowell's trial counsel in failing to investigate and present compelling mitigation evidence fell so far below the standard of care required of counsel … as to constitute ineffective assistance of counsel," Cummings said.
State officials appealed the ruling and now the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit says that defense lawyers, "were instructed by [Yowell] not to take any action that would result in the possibility of a life sentence as [Yowell] wanted a death sentence."
However, the Fifth Circuit ruling does not automatically mean that Yowell goes back on death row. The Fifth Circuit ordered the Lubbock court to consider if Yowell's rights were violated by his appellate counsel when the case was reviewed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. The Lubbock court is also told to consider whether Yowell's rights were violated when defense lawyers did not look for alternate ways to get expert witness testimony admitted when first denied by the trial judge.
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