AUSTIN -- Federal judges are deciding whether to grant a convicted killer a new trial.
Colton Pitonyak's lawyers went before the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday morning. The appeals hearing was years in the making. Pitonyak has been in jail since 2007 for the 2005 murder and dismemberment of 21-year-old Jennifer Cave.
His attorney, Chris Perri, says evidence that was never presented to the defense during the initial trial proves that Pitonyak isn't a killer. Perri told the three-judge panel that prosecutors violated the Brady Code by failing to search the electronic jail records of Laura Hall.
In those records Hall allegedly confessed to several inmates to killing Cave.
“All it would have taken from the District Attorney's Office is to walk next door and ask for Laura Hall's file and in there they would have found that she had confessed to two other inmates that she actually did the murder. That's how simple it is,” explained Pitonyak’s other attorney Joe Turner.
Hall is currently serving prison time herself right now for tampering with evidence and hindering apprehension in Cave's murder.
“I do firmly believe that the prosecution had a duty to search for that file,” said Perri. “To close your eyes to a file like that is inexcusable and that's what demands a new trial.”
Prosecutors in Tuesday’s hearing argued the records weren’t readily accessible. The judges questioned the merit, citing Pitonyak’s confession during his trial.
Pitonyak says he doesn’t remember much from the night Cave was murdered but admitted that he must have been the one who killed her.
“Any lawyer armed with a confession on the part of Laura Hall would have obviously changed strategies. They had the DNA of Laura Hall on the murder weapon. We had incriminating statements from not just her but the truth is there's been several people she confessed to. Believe me. We get a new trial? We're going to win this case,” said Turner.
Cave's family was in court watching the appeal hearing.
“We are proud of the judicial system and the Attorney General’s Office,” said Jim Sedwick. “We are very grateful for all of the effort they’ve put into this case. We just want closure for Jennifer.”
There's no set time table for how long the court may take before making a ruling. It could ultimately grant Pitonyak a new trial.