AUSTIN (KXAN) — Rosa Jimenez has been released from the Texas prison where she’s spent the last 15 years, after she was found guilty of murder in the 2003 choking death of a child in her care.
District Judge Karen Sage ruled Jimenez’ original conviction rested on false evidence which violated her right to due process. In her findings released Wednesday, the judge also noted seeing “clear and convincing evidence” Jimenez is innocent.
“I cannot give Ms. Jimenez justice today, but hopefully I can give her the inalienable right that she has been deprived of for far to long — her freedom,” Sage said.
The judge will recommend her findings to the Court of Criminal Appeals, which will make the final decision to stand with or overturn Jimenez’ conviction or call for a re-trial. However, the judge was able to grant her release on bond.
Several people on the virtual call were brought to tears when the judge issued an emotional assessment of the justice system in light of this case.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, and I am deeply sorry for that,” she said. “I’ve learned that justice is an ideal. It’s something we can and should strive for. Maybe someday we will live in a time and in a society that it is regularly achievable, but until then we struggle in a system that is always imperfect, and too often broken.”
The move comes after the defense team for Jimenez brought three new pediatric airway specialists to testify about their disagreement with the original trial experts.
The Travis County District Attorney’s office also filed an affidavit from one of these original experts. After having the opportunity to review statements from the pediatric airway experts, this witness said that her original opinion had changed.
“Clear and convincing evidence that Ms. Jimenez did not intentionally attack and harm the child, and that Bryan Gutierrez’ death was almost certainly the result of a very, very tragic accident and not murder,” the judge stated when summarizing her findings of fact.
The D.A.’s office and Jimenez’ defense team cooperated to come up with these agreed upon findings of fact in the case.
“Our office joined defense in arguing that, in light of the testimony and affidavit from our expert witness, Ms. Jimenez is entitled to relief because she is likely innocent,” read a statement from their office.
Upon her release from the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement took custody of Jimenez, but she was then transferred to the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio, where she was met by her attorney from the Innocence Project, Vanessa Potkin.
Another attorney on her defense team, Sara Ann Brown, said she would be escorted to Austin, where she’ll remain while awaiting the decision from the appeals court. Jimenez has two children who reside in the Austin area. Her daughter was one year old at the time of her mother’s arrest. She gave birth to her son while in jail awaiting trial.
“Her daughter is getting married this weekend, and so, she’s going to get to celebrate that with her — which is incredible,” Brown said.
Still, her defense attorneys said they’re not breathing a full sigh of relief just yet. Brown explained it could be months before the appeals court announced whether it will adopt Sage’s findings.
“It’s not over yet,” she said.
If the court calls for a re-trial, they are prepared to bring forth the new medical experts to testify, but with the Travis County D.A. working cooperatively on her release, Jimenez’ team is hopeful.