SCOTUS Demands TX Appeals Court Reconsider Death Row Prisoner Case

By Vanguard Staff

WASHINGTON, DC  – The U.S Supreme Court reversed the decision on a re-trial of a Texas death row prisoner this past week, vacating the judgment of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in the case of Ariel Escobar, and sent the case back for reconsideration,” reported the Death Penalty Information Center (DPIC).

The reversal relied upon the Travis County prosecutors’ admission stating petitioner Ariel Escobar’s conviction is based on “flawed and misleading forensic evidence,” said DPIC.

In 2011, Escobar was sentenced to the death penalty for allegedly sexually assaulting and murdering a woman in his apartment complex.

But, the DPIC claims, “No eyewitnesses linked him to the crime, and the prosecution’s case relied heavily on the Austin crime lab’s forensic testing of Escobar’s clothes and items found at the crime scene.”

The Travis County District Attorney’s office changed its opposing position when evidence was presented in Texas trial court. The TCCA denied all relief and reconsideration, despite the prosecution’s support.

SCOTUS reverses that decision to send the case back to TCCA. 

Travis County District Attorney Jose Garza said, “We believe it’s really important for someone accused of a crime to have a jury that has access to complete and accurate facts. We hope that the Court of Criminal Appeals will share that perspective and review the facts of this case” after seeing SCOTUS’ ruling.” 

During Escobar’s trial, prosecutors presented evidence examined by the Austin PD crime lab to link Escobar to the rape and murder of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado. 

Prosecutors also presented additional testimony from Escobar’s ex-girlfriend who said she “purportedly received a cellphone call in which she heard a woman repeatedly screaming over the course of 10 minutes while being raped—although initially the girlfriend told investigators only that she heard Escobar having ‘consensual sex’ with a woman.” 

The Austin crime lab was closed in 2016, said DPIC, because of unreliable results. The state trial court ruled in Escobar’s favor requesting state-post conviction relief, noting, “The lab’s failures were widespread and included a failure to adhere to scientifically accepted practices.”

Moreover, the court found “contamination of samples combined with a cavalier attitude that hampered the discovery of contamination, and untrained analysts supervised by leaders without necessary technical knowledge,” said DPIC.

“The State had offered flawed and misleading forensic evidence at Petitioner’s trial and this evidence was material to the outcome of his case in violation of clearly established federal due process law, “concluded the prosecution. 

Escobar’s claims and request for a new trial were dismissed by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals until the Jan. 9 SCOTUS reversal.

Law professor and Supreme Court analyst Stephen Vladeck concluded, “Given the prosecution’s confession of error, the most alarming thing about the court’s decision to send the case back for a new trial is that it was even necessary in the first place.”

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