The Supreme Court heard arguments Wednesday in three Texas death penalty cases that were billed as a test of wills between the high court and lower court judges who have effectively defied its decisions on the use of mitigating evidence.

But whatever anger the Court held toward the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals seems to have largely dissipated. On Wednesday, its newest members, Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. and Justice Samuel Alito Jr., appeared ready to give greater deference to Texas in administering its capital-punishment laws.

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