*Update 09/11/13*: State District Judge Anna Perez has withdrawn the January 2014 execution date for Robert Avila in light of his new petition for an evidentiary hearing. Read more from the El Paso Times.
Attorneys for Rigoberto (“Robert”) Avila, Jr., an El Paso man who has been on death row in Texas since 2001, have filed a petition seeking an evidentiary hearing of newly available scientific evidence that supports his claim of innocence. The petition asks the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals to order an evidentiary hearing under a groundbreaking new Texas law, Senate Bill 344, which went into effect on September 1, 2013.
Mr. Avila was convicted of the 2000 death of a 19-month-old child who was in his care. According to a press release from Texas Defender Service, which represents Mr. Avila, “Mr. Avila’s case will be the first death penalty case in the state to be considered by the courts under this new legislation which allows access to the courts for defendants challenging their convictions based outdated forensic techniques.”
The Texas Legislature and Governor Rick Perry approved SB 344 to create an avenue for defendants to challenge their convictions if they were gained through outdated forensic techniques or previously unavailable scientific evidence.
Read “New Law Gives New Hope to Death Row Inmate” (September 8, 2013) from the Texas Tribune for more information about this case.