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Estrada v. The State of Texas

Location: Texas
Last Update: April 22, 2011

What's at Stake

Jurors in Estrada's 2007 sentencing trial were incorrectly told by a State's prison expert that if Estrada were given a sentence of life without parole instead of the death penalty, he could be eligible for a classification level that would allow him to leave the prison grounds after 10 years of imprisonment. Two juror notes strongly suggested that the expert's false testimony led to their decision to sentence Estrada to death. Prosecutors' use of false and misleading evidence is a leading cause of wrongful death sentences in Texas and nationwide.

Adrian Estrada's death sentence was thrown out last June after the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals found that A.P. Merillat, who investigates prison crimes for Texas, wrongly testified that, if allowed to live, Estrada could receive a prisoner classification that would allow him to leave the prison grounds. This testimony led the jury to find that Estrada posed a future threat to society. Merillat, who has testified in numerous other death penalty cases in Texas, told prosecutors after Estrada’s sentence was thrown out, "I don’t know if my presence in your courthouses would serve you or your cases well."

In a 66-page ruling issued in June, Judge Barbara Hervey of the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals wrote, “This information, now properly before this court, demonstrates there is a fair probability that appellant’s death sentence was based upon incorrect testimony as evidenced by the jury’s notes. We believe that the Supreme Court would find this to be constitutionally intolerable.”

Estrada agreed to his new sentence before state District Court Judge Sid Harle in Bexar County, TX.

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