Chuck Lindell at the Austin Statesman last week reported that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has ordered a trial judge to investigate whether prosecutors concealed snitch testimony in a 2003 capital murder case ("Court orders investigation of inmate's accusation," Oct. 11):
A Travis County judge must investigate a prison inmate's allegations that prosecutors allowed a key witness to provide false testimony during a 2003 capital murder trial, the state's highest criminal court ordered Wednesday.Though all of Texas' major innocence reforms failed during the 2007 Legislature, other states are facing up to the problem, and Texas should follow their lead. Texas already requires corroboration for informants in drug stings, but not in capital cases or other serious offenses. That oversight needs to be corrected when the Legislature reconvenes in 2009.
David Mendez, sentenced to life in prison in the shooting deaths of two Austin men in 1997, alleges in an appeal that the Travis County district attorney's office failed to disclose a deal to reward a jailhouse informant for testimony implicating Mendez in the murders.
Mendez also claims that prosecutors allowed the informant, Paul Alba Jr., to falsely tell jurors that he was not rewarded for his testimony.
Bryan Case Jr., head of the Travis County district attorney's office appeals division, said prosecutors did not help Alba in exchange for his testimony.
"That will all come out in our filings at court," Case said.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, without ruling on the merits of Mendez's allegations, ordered state District Judge Bob Perkins to investigate the claims and forward his findings to the appellate judges within 90 days. Perkins is to collect affidavits from Assistant District Attorneys Buddy Meyer and Gary Cobb, as well as others who may have relevant information.
Mendez "has alleged facts that, if true, might entitle him to relief," the court order stated. "Additional facts are needed."
Alba's testimony was crucial for Travis County prosecutors.
SEE ALSO: Prior Grits posts about criminal informants.