The US Supreme Court Monday vacated the judgment in the case of Areli Escobar. Escobar is currently incarcerated on death row for the stabbing murder of Bianca Maldonado Hernandez during the course of committing or attempting to commit aggravated sexual assault.
Escobar and Hernandez were unknown to each other and there were no eyewitnesses to the murder. Consequently, the State relied heavily on forensic DNA evidence to support their case. In a petition filed in June 2022, Escobar’s lawyers alleged that following Escobar’s conviction and death sentence, Texas discovered “serious inefficiencies” in its DNA testing laboratory. These inefficiencies led to the closure of the laboratory. In 2016, an audit found some of the laboratory’s practices were subpar, citing a potential contamination event in another case.
In their response to the petition, the State of Texas agreed that the State brought “flawed and misleading forensic evidence” to Escobar’s trial and agreed that this was a “violation of clearly established due process law.” The petition sought a writ of certiorari to reverse the conviction and sentence, which has been granted by the court. The case will now be sent back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for reconsideration.