An "expert witness" who frequently testified for the prosecution in capital punishment cases has caused another death sentence to be overturned in Texas.Given recent court rulings regarding testimony he "should have known" was false, one wonders what sort of training Mr. Merillat provides for TDCAA, not to mention whether the guidance he provided changed after the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled he gave false testimony in 2010? But since most of their training sessions are "open only to licensed prosecutors," that's impossible to say. Grits is a bit dumbfounded that TDCAA would continue to use this fellow as a trainer after the Court of Criminal Appeals cited him for false testimony in 2010, much less honor him with an award. Merillat has been a go-to expert for prosecutors in the sentencing phase of capital trials for years - his schtick is to help prove up "future dangerousness" of those locked up with life sentences - and there's no telling in how many cases he's provided similarly wrong testimony. And of course, he's not the only "expert" Texas courts have found to have given bogus testimony on "future dangerousness" in capital trials.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday justly threw out the death sentence for Manuel Velez of Brownsville, convicted of killing his girlfriend's infant son in 2005, because of false evidence given during the punishment phase of the trial.
A.P. Merillat, who testified for the state as an expert on prisoner security classification, told the jury during the punishment phase that if sentenced to life in prison, Velez would eventually be given lenient privileges allowing him to work outside the prison fence line. In other words, he would continue to be a threat to society.
The appeals court, in overturning the sentence (still upholding the conviction), said the Cameron County district attorney's office and the witness should have known the testimony was false.
The court in 2010 threw out the death sentence of a San Antonio man because of similar testimony from Merillat.
In an April 2010 article for the Bar Association, Merillat described his future dangerousness testimony and suggested that "A benefit to you readers who are on the defense bar [from reading his article] is that you can examine and dissect this information, put your heads together, and come up with ways to rebut my testimony and convince jurors that I am a crackpot." Two months later, the Court of Criminal Appeals ruled Merillat gave false testimony when he claimed, as he did in that article, that "Capital murderers are not singled-out for special precautionary custody while in prison" That's a pretty short turnaround from issuing challenges to the defense bar to having his testimony discredited by the state's highest criminal court.