Image of man holding bars in the background, with quote: “I hope to be a living testimony against the death penalty”

In His Own Words: Terence Andrus Maintains Hope for His Life


Terence Andrus is currently incarcerated on Texas’s death row for the shooting deaths of two individuals in a supermarket parking lot in 2008. The shooting took place during an attempted carjacking while Terence was high on marijuana laced with PCP. During his trial, the prosecution painted Terence, only 20 years old at the time of his crimes, as hopeless and irredeemable. His court-appointed counsel did little to challenge the prosecutor’s claims or present significant mitigating evidence to the sentencing jury. Post-conviction hearings revealed defense counsel failed to investigate or present the truth about Terence’s life, including the extreme neglect and abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his family and the state’s juvenile justice agency then known as the Texas Youth Commission (TYC).

On June 15, 2020, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed that the defense Terence received by his appointed lawyer constituted clearly deficient representation and has returned the case to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to decide if “at least one juror would have struck a different balance’ regarding [defendant’s] ‘moral culpability’” if they had heard evidence of Terence’s past sufferings of abuse from family and the state juvenile justice system. Terence now awaits the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to decide if a new sentencing hearing will be awarded.

In his own words, Terence shares how this case reflects on the larger issues of due process, proper defense and his hope to stay alive.

Excerpt from: “Reflection on Andrus v. Texas” Reflection by Terence Andrus

The process of appealing my case to the Supreme Court was, for me, part of a “phylogenic” journey. (I like learning new, fancy words.) The evolution is mostly my own. I, Terence Tremaine Andrus, am still here — living, breathing, becoming — in spite of . . . But I am also seeing that American Justice is evolving too.

After yet another denial in state court, the drafting of a cert petition to America’s highest court was not something I felt optimistic about. I was so disheartened about my chances of getting “due process of law.” Even so, as I consulted with my attorney, I maintained a tinge of hope. I had an attorney who saw me, my life’s story, and the legal ramifications of how I had been treated in the trial court as something well worth fighting for. My attorney was really my appendage, who felt for me and how I had been failed by the system. This was a new phenomenon for me.

Read the full essay.

The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) Youth Justice Clinic, in partnership with Dallas law firm Fears Nachawati, has urged the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to set aside the death sentence of Terence Andrus. The brief was filed on behalf of leading youth justice groups First Focus on Children, National Juvenile Justice Network, Just Detention International and Texas juvenile justice expert Michele Deitch. The Clinic and Firm argue that the sentencing jury would not have sent Terence to death row had they heard the full story.

Help bring awareness to Terence’s story by sharing this essay online with the hashtag #TerenceAndrus.

For more, read this fact sheet provided by the The UDC David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC Law) Juvenile Clinic.

The National Juvenile Justice Network works to promote a fairer, safer youth justice system right for children and teens.