- Associated Press - Monday, January 27, 2014

HOUSTON (AP) - A convicted killer sent to death row for raping and strangling a 77-year-old woman at her Houston home two decades ago has won federal court approval to move forward with an appeal.

Jorge Villanueva argues his lawyers were deficient during the punishment phase of his capital murder trial.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals agreed Monday with the 59-year-old Villanueva that he waived calling witnesses to help jurors decide on a punishment less than death because his attorneys inadequately advised him of the importance of such witnesses.

The New Orleans-based appeals court rejected five other claims about poor legal help.

Villanueva was convicted of the 1994 death of Maria Jova Minteil.

Prison records show Villanueva also is serving life for an injury-to-a-child conviction.

He doesn’t have an execution date.

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