News 11.07.19

Estela Rosa Jimenez’s Murder Conviction Overturned in Child’s Choking Death

By Innocence Staff

Rosa Jimenez at the Mountain View Prison Unit. (Image: Brandon Thibodeaux/The New York Times via Redux Pictures)

(Austin, TX –  October 30, 2019) – 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 trial in August 2005. The decision 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. 

Related: Woman’s murder conviction in child’s choking death has been overturned after 15 years

“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.”

The following statement can be attributed to Bryce Benjet, Innocence Project senior staff attorney:

“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.”

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  1. Angie Finegan says:

    These Judges need to stop using fast judgement in these cases where innocent people end up losing their lives and families have to grieve in the most horrific way and without having to spend time with their loved one’s !

  2. Avril Hales says:

    Regarding Rosa Jimenez; I understand one of the original jurors said that one of the overwhelming perceptions was how 5 paper towels became stuck in the child’s throat. The insinuation was that they were rammed into the child’s mouth until he choked. I don’t know if the defence considered Pica as an explanation. Pica usually affects young children. Pica is often associated with the obsessive eating of dirt, chalk, coal for instance but children often eat paper – parent’s report the avid eating of toilet rolls for instance. It is more frequent in poorer families and often seems to have some connection with a deficiency such as low iron, low zinc, B12 etc. Children often stop pica when their vitamin/mineral levels are stabilised.

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