Attorneys for convicted killer Colton Pitonyak went before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals Tuesday, to argue that their client deserves a new trial. Pitonyak is currently serving a 55-year sentence for the murder and dismemberment of Jennifer Cave in his West Campus apartment in 2005. Another woman, Laura Hall, is also behind bars for tampering with evidence in the case and Pitonyak's attorneys say there is evidence that suggests Hall is actually the killer.
"This confession should not have been left in a file not disclosed to the defense team," said Pitonyak's attorney Chris Perri. He's referring to Hall's jail file which they discovered contained a note written by a mental health counselor saying that two of Hall's fellow inmates heard her confess to the murder.
"Any lawyer armed with a confession by Laura Hall would have obviously changed strategies," said defense attorney Joe Turner. He believes prosecutors in Pitonyak's 2007 trial had a duty to get that file and hand it over to the defense.
"It was reasonably foreseeable that there was that confession by Laura Hall in there, that there was exculpatory evidence as to Colton given everything Laura was saying to other inmates. And to close your eyes to a file like that is inexcusable," Perri said.
Travis County Assistant District Attorney Allison Wetzel, who served as a prosecutor in Hall's second sentencing trial, says that note is not a confession and that prosecutors were not required by law to ask for that jail file. "(It's) not part of the investigative file. This counselor is not part of the investigation. She's not part of law enforcement. She's a support staff person in the jail."
During the Court of Appeals hearing Tuesday, Deputy Solicitor General Andrew Oldham, who's representing the state of Texas in this appeal, said that evidence shows Hall was not at Pitonyak's West Campus apartment when the murder happened and that there was plenty of undisputed evidence to convict Pitonyak, including his own confession.
There is no time table for the 3-judge panel to hand down an opinion, but this appeal has been expedited.
The family of Jennifer Cave told FOX 7 they are grateful for the Texas Attorney General's Office for how they have fought for this case. They say they understand that appellate rights apply to all and they are ready for closure for Jennifer.