Criminal Justice
12:14 pm
Thu March 20, 2014

Texas’ Highest Criminal Court Hears First Case Using New "Junk Science" Law

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard oral arguments this week in a case of a man convicted of murdering a toddler. The attorneys for Neal Robbins used a new law that allows for a new trial if the forensic science used to convict them is discredited and out-of-date.

Robbins was convicted of killing a 17 month old in Houston in 1999 and in 2007 the medical examiner changed her opinion. Since then the Texas Legislature passed a new law that allows someone convicted to petition for a new trial if the forensic science methods used to in their case is suddenly discredited. 

Brian Wice is the attorney for Robbins and argued the merits of the new law before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

"Close enough for government work just won’t cut it because we deal with real people and their lives and liberty on an everyday basis," Wice said. "And if scientific evidence can’t stand the test of time, then the defendant is entitled to a new trial -- a fair trial -- with a reliable result and that just didn’t happen in this case.”

Wice said the odds may be stacked against them because four of the seated judges question if the law applies in the Robbins case. It’s a law that state Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, has been fighting to get passed for the last five years.

"I don’t know how anyone could quarrel with reviewing criminal convictions particularly because we are exonerating individuals, mostly through DNA," Whitmire said.

The court is expected to rule on whether the new law applies to the Robbins case in early part of this summer.

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