AUSTIN, Texas — United States District Judge Lee Yeakel has overturned the murder conviction of Estela Rosa Jimenez and ordered a new trial based on Jimenez being denied her constitutional right to present qualified medical experts at her August 2005 trial, according to the Innocence Project.

The decision for Jiminez's case is grounded on the earlier recommendation of United States Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin issued in September 2018. It has been almost 15 years since Jimenez was convicted of murder for the death of a 21-month-old child in her care. 

"Jimenez has always maintained her innocence and stated the child’s death was a tragic accident and not murder," said the Innocence Project. 

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Bryce Benjet, Innocence Project senior staff attorney, released the following statement:

"Rosa Jimenez was convicted based only on the scientifically invalid medical theory that was physically impossible for an infant to have choked on a wad of paper towel. There were no signs of abuse, Ms. Jimenez immediately tried to resuscitate Bryan Gutierrez and called for help. As any parent knows, the state's theory made no sense. We have since presented leading experts in pediatric choking who described similar incidents of accidental choking and confirmed that nothing about this case suggested foul play.  

Unfortunately, Ms. Jimenez's appointed defense counsel failed to hire a competent medical expert and the jury made its decision based on invalid science. Judge Yeakel's decision today granting a new trial confirms the findings of both the trial judge and the state habeas judge that there is a reasonable likelihood Ms. Jimenez was wrongfully convicted.

There is simply no evidence that this little boy's death was anything but a tragic accident. Ms. Jimenez and her family have likewise suffered immeasurably. Her children have grown up without their mother, and Ms. Jimenez's health has deteriorated while she spent almost half of her life imprisoned for a murder that never even happened.

Based on Judge Yeakel's decision, we encourage the Travis County District Attorney to closely examine this case, accept the decisions of every judge who actually heard the witnesses and dismiss this case so that Ms. Jimenez may finally return to her family and bring this tragedy to a close."

Jimenez was 19, seven months pregnant and still nursing her 1-year-old daughter when she was arrested for the boy's death, according to our partners at the Austin American-Statesman.

The Innocence Project is a nonprofit legal organization whose mission is to "free the staggering number of innocent people who remain incarcerated, and to bring reform to the system responsible for their unjust imprisonment."

The organization is currently also working on the Rodney Reed case.

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