AUSTIN (KXAN) — A man on death row for the gruesome 2009 murder of a 17-year-old girl in east Austin has been granted a hearing in Travis County, according to Court of Criminal Appeals order released Wednesday.

Areli Carbajal Escobar, 38, is currently incarcerated in the Polunsky Unit in East Texas near Lake Livingston, where he has been since he was sentenced to death by a Travis County jury in 2011. His initial post-conviction appeal was in May 2013. In February of this year, Escobar’s attorneys filed an application for writ of habeas corpus stating the court should grant a hearing since there is a “preponderance of the evidence that he would not have been convicted if the newly available scientific evidence had been presented at trial.”

In Escobar’s application, his defense also calls out the now-shuttered Austin Police Department DNA lab and they’re “mishandling of the DNA evidence that was the centerpiece of the State’s case against Mr. Escobar.” According to the application, in April 2017, the Travis County District Attorney’s office disclosed information related to the work performance of the APD DNA analyst who screened most of the DNA evidence in Escobar’s case. According to the review, approximately 17 percent of cases handled by the analyst between 2008 and 2010 had “some type of quality issue.”

Areli Escobar. (TDCJ)

According to court records, Escobar is also asking for another review of the cell-tower location information that was used at his original trial.

Authorities say on May 31, 2009, Escobar entered the east Austin apartment of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado and murdered her. Maldonado was stabbed dozens of times and sexually assaulted. Maldonado’s 1-year-old son was also injured during the attack.

“What happened to my daughter has disturbed me all these years.”

Escobar’s girlfriend at the time heard the attack on her cellphone when she called him after finding him gone from his apartment, police said. For the next 10 minutes, she said she heard the sound of a woman being raped. Escobar lived at the same apartment complex as Maldonado.

During the trial, the prosecution said the victim had 46 stab wounds. The State also presented DNA evidence as well as fingerprints from the crime scene.

“The gruesome nature of the sexual assault is beyond imagination how she suffered, I would put this at the top of my list,” said prosecutor Efrain De La Fuente during the trial. “The suffering she went through … it was a horrific way to die.”

After a jury found Escobar guilty, Escobar’s defense attorney at the time, Steve Brittain, said he felt the jury was very attentive to all the evidence. But Brittain was critical of how DNA evidence was presented at trial.

“I think it is a perversion of a very good science in the forensic world, just as serology turned out to be,” he said at the time.Bianca Moldanao’s Family

KXAN spoke with Bianca Maldonado’s family Wednesday. Prior to that they were unaware that Escobar had been granted another hearing in Travis County.

“It took us by surprise, we didn’t expect this,” said Magaly Maldonado, Bianca’s younger sister. She explained that the prospect of spending more time waiting for court proceedings to play out is overwhelming.

“I feel sad about all of this because I know we have to start over again, I know this is going to be hard not only for us but all of our family and people who know my sister,” Magaly said. “This is going to bring tears again, it’s going to be really hard.”

Bianca Maldanado was murdered in her east Austin apartment on May 31, 2009. (Courtesy: Maldanado family)

Magaly said that if her sister were alive today, she would have already graduated college, enjoying working and being a mom.

“I’m not anyone to decide to take [ Escobar’s] life,” said Bianca’s mother, Jacqueline Hernandez through a translator. “But he did take my daughter’s life, without it touching his heart and I pray to God He takes care of him.”

“What happened to my daughter has disturbed me all these years, because I know the way he took her life, she didn’t deserve it,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez watches over Bianca’s son Cesar, who is now 9 years old. He still has scars on his hands from when he was attacked in the incident that killed his mother. Cesar said the scars are the only things he has to remember his mother.Crime Lab DNA in court

Amanda Marzullo, the Executive Director of the Texas Defender’s Service, refers to Escobar’s case as the “tip of the iceberg” when it comes the the repercussions of problems at the APD crime lab. She works with her non-profit on death penalty representation, and while Escobar’s case is of interest to her, he is not a client of TDS.

“When we’re talking about the Austin Crime Lab, we’re saying this is an instance where we had incompetent analysts, engaging in unsound practices, and not properly preserving evidence,” Marzullo said. “So literally all of their work for an extended period of time — and we’re talking about thousands of cases — is called into question. That is, in many ways, unprecedented in this state.”

Marzullo believes the Travis County District Attorney needs to take the death penalty off the table for Escobar, and open up all her files to resolve all the issues that are in this case and other cases affected by the crime lab.

She believes that there will be more discussion as to whether Escobar is entitled to a new trial.

UT Austin law professor Jennifer Laurin has been following Escobar’s case as well.

“One reason why the ruling by the [Criminal Court of Appeals] in this case is important and also potentially deeply disturbing is this is really the first case where we’ve seen a court say, ‘We’ve got to put the breaks on carrying out punishment in this case because there’s a possibility it was so deeply tainted by what was happening in the lab,'” Laurin said. “But meanwhile there were thousands and thousands of other cases that were processed in this time period for which there’s been zero judicial look back.”

Laurin explained that Austin and Travis County are at the very beginning stages of identifying which cases those are.

She added that it is uncommon for a case like Escobar’s to be pushed back to it’s original court on the basis of problems with evidence. Escobar’s attorneys faced a very high bar to prove his case needed to be heard again, she explained.

“They were trying to convince the court that they could come into court a second time, to be able to file a habeas petition,” Laurin said. “Ordinarily in Texas — even in a capital case — you only get one bite at the apple, and Mr. Escobar already took his first bite before the problems in the DNA lab came to light.”