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High Court: Texas Death Row Inmate Can't Add Another Lawyer

The Supreme Court on Monday denied Texas death row inmate Robert Roberson III's petition to add another attorney to his team. Roberson has one more shot at delaying his execution with a petition arguing his rights were violated.

Robert Roberson III is a Texas death row inmate.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday denied Texas death row inmate Robert Roberson III's petition to add another attorney to his court-appointed team.

Roberson has one more shot at delaying his execution with a petition arguing his rights were violated at trial.

Roberson, on death row for killing his two-year-old daughter in 2002, argues that his right to due process was violated when his trial judge did not allow an expert to testify about mental lapses caused by a brain injury Roberson suffered.

During the appeals process, Roberson sought new attorneys, saying his appointed ones, Seth Kretzer and Wes Volberding, were ineffective and had conflicts of interest that prevented them from fully fighting for him. He went to Texas Defender Service, whose attorneys filed a petition with the Supreme Court asking it to order a lower court to appoint a third attorney. The court denied the request Monday.

Attorney Lee Kovarsky said he and his Texas Defender Service team are trying to determine what to do next.

"The Supreme Court denies certiorari review in 98 percent of cases," he said, "and many of those orders denying review have nothing to do with the merits of underlying argument."

While that since-denied request was still before the court, Roberson's original attorneys entered another petition into the record. Kretzer filed a petition Wednesday asking the court to send Roberson's case back to trial because of his expert being unable to testify. Attorneys for the state of Texas have until Jan. 4 to respond to the petition.

Kretzer said his petition is "a real argument on which Mr. Roberson has a substantial chance of relief," and "those arguments are the ones that were developed and about which there was evidence." The petition is also is likely Roberson's last chance in the appeals process to avoid execution, Kretzer said. A clemency petition would be the next and final resort if the Supreme Court denies this second plea, he said.

Kovarsky said he hopes Kretzer's petition has a better outcome than his own.

"We only care about the client, so we hope that the certiorari petition filed last week is successful," Kovarsky said. 

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