Texas

U.S. Supreme Court orders appeals court to review prisoner Austin’s motion for a new trial

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday upheld a Travis County death row inmate’s appeal against the decision of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to uphold his conviction and death sentence, sending him back to the appellate court.

The Supreme Court directed the Court of Appeals to further consider a brief filed by Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza, admitting that—in part because of past problems with the DNA lab formerly run by the Austin Police Department—the prosecutor’s office offered erroneous and misleading judicial medical evidence at Arelie Escobar’s trial in 2011, and that evidence was critical to the outcome of his case.

The Court of Appeal still has the option to reach the same conclusion and uphold the verdict again.

The trial of Escobar, convicted of sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado, is by far the most high-profile case to be retried after a state audit found the Austin Police Department’s DNA lab misanalyzed forensic evidence . The state Department of Public Safety now operates the lab.

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