AUSTIN (KXAN) — The American Bar Association is asking the U.S. Supreme Court to grant a Central Texas man another trial after he was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death for sexually assaulting and fatally stabbing a 17-year-old girl in east Austin in 2009.
The bar association is pointing to DNA evidence used in the trial, which was conducted at the Austin Police Departments now shuttered crime lab.
In 2016, an audit found that APD lab technicians were using flawed science when calculating the odds of DNA results, possibly botching thousands of cases. Techs were also using expired materials during testing and there was at least one case where the evidence was contaminated.
“What is perhaps most remarkable about this case is that the State itself—which secured the conviction—has now changed position and acknowledged that petitioner’s due process rights were violated and that a new trial is warranted,” ABA wrote in a 19-page amicus brief to the Supreme Court.
Areli Carbajal Escobar, 43, is on death row for the murder of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado. During his trial, the state presented graphic evidence of the attack, saying the victim was found with 46 stab wounds. They also presented DNA evidence, which is in dispute here, and fingerprints from the crime scene.
Escobar’s girlfriend at the time said she heard the attack on her cellphone, police reported. 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.
The murder happened in 2009, a jury decided Escobar was guilty in 2011. Escobar’s legal team has been fighting his conviction since.
“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,” said Magaly Maldonado, Bianca’s younger sister, in 2017 when Escobar appealed his conviction in Travis County. “This is going to bring tears again, it’s going to be really hard.”
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has previously rejected attempts to get a new trial for Escobar, saying the DNA evidence was not central to securing Escobar’s conviction, according to the brief. It is unclear if the Supreme Court will take up the case.