The Supreme Court on Monday revived a Texas death row inmate’s claim that his murder conviction should be voided on the grounds that DNA evidence used at trial was later found to be unreliable. The justices threw out an appeals court ruling in favor of the state in the case of Areli Escobar, who was convicted of the 2009 murder of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado. In a rare move, prosecutors agreed that the evidence was faulty and there should be a new trial. The Supreme Court sent the case back to an appeals court in Texas "for further consideration in light of the confession of error by Texas." NBC News reports.
Escobar was convicted and sentenced to death in 2011 for the murder of Maldonado, who was stabbed and sexually assaulted at her apartment in Austin. Escobar, who lived in the same apartment complex, was initially linked to the crime because of comments made by his then-girlfriend, who told acquaintances that she thought she had heard him having sex with another woman when she called him on the morning of the murder. He went to his mother’s house later on the morning of the murder with blood spots on his clothes and evidence of injuries, which he said were caused by a fight. At trial, with no eyewitnesses to the crime, prosecutors were heavily reliant on DNA evidence analyzed by the Austin Police Department’s laboratory as well as a private laboratory. After Escobar was convicted in 2011, the police department's DNA laboratory was closed after a state investigation that showed evidence of widespread errors and bias. A state judge in 2020 ruled that Escobar deserved a new trial because “newly available scientific evidence demonstrates that the DNA evidence relied upon for this conviction was scientifically unreliable." See previous coverage of the case by Crime and Justice News here.