Rosa Jimenez, an Innocence Project client, was convicted of murder in 2005 for the death of a 21-month-old who choked on wadded up paper towels while he was in her care. But several pediatric experts have found that the child’s death was consistent with accidental choking. Jimenez has always maintained her innocence and, since her trial, experts and judges have also concluded that she is likely innocent.
There was no evidence of abuse or criminal behavior in the child’s death.
In October 2019, about 14 years after Jimenez’s initial trial, a district judge ruled that Jimenez was denied a fair trial and overturned her murder conviction. He ordered a new trial during which reliable medical experts would be able to testify that the child had died from accidental choking. The decision reinforced the recommendation of a magistrate judge, issued in September 2018, and gave the prosecution until February 25, 2020, to retry or release Jimenez.
But Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore has indicated that she intends to fight to prevent a jury from hearing all of the evidence at a retrial. She has instructed Attorney General Ken Paxton’s office to appeal the decision — a process that could take years. Jimenez is presently suffering from Stage 4 kidney disease and, as long as she is incarcerated, treatment options are limited. A long, drawn-out appeal process would keep her in prison while her health deteriorates further.
Advocates are calling for Moore to drop the appeal and dismiss the charges against Jimenez so she can go home.
If she is released, Jimenez wants to move back to Mexico to live with her mother, be reunited with her two children, and seek adequate medical treatment.
But if she remains in custody, she will never be considered for the kidney transplant she needs, said Vanessa Potkin, Jimenez’s attorney and the Innocence Project’s director of post-conviction litigation.
Here’s what you need to know about her case:
- Pediatric experts from the nation’s leading children’s hospitals say there is no evidence suggesting the child was murdered, and confirm the evidence that shows the little boy accidentally choked. When Jimenez noticed the child was choking, she immediately tried to remove the blockage, and rushed to a neighbor’s house to call 911 when she was unable to. The child was ultimately resuscitated, but the lack of oxygen resulted in severe brain damage, and he died a few months later.
- The Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore relied on scientifically-unfounded medical opinions and used racist tropes to convince a jury to convict Jimenez, who is originally from Mexico. Her appointed attorney failed to put forth a meaningful defense in response, and she was sentenced to 99 years in prison.
- At the time of her trial in 2005, Jimenez’s defense was woefully inadequate. Her attorney called one expert who was ill-equipped and unqualified to rebut any of the state’s faulty claims. He was also fully discredited on cross-examination, at one point telling the prosecution to “go fuck themselves,” among several other explosive and harmful tirades. The state court habeas judge who recommended that Jimenez receive a new trial noted that in his “30 years as a licensed attorney, [and] 20 years in the judiciary, [he had] never seen such unprofessional and biased conduct from any witness, much less a purported expert” and the expert’s testimony left Jimenez’s case worse off than if she’d had no expert at all.
- Four Texas judges and have concluded that Rosa is likely innocent (see findings: Hon. Jon Wisser, Hon. Charlie Baird, Hon Andrew Austin, and Hon. Lee Yeakel).
- Jimenez’s children were taken from her. At the time of her arrest, she was a married mom of a 1-year-old girl who was still nursing and seven months pregnant with her son. She gave birth to him in prison and he was immediately taken from her. Both of her children were raised in foster care and are now teenagers.
- “If the state drags this out it will turn into a death sentence for Ms. Jimenez,” said Vanessa Potkin, Jimenez’s attorney and the Innocence Project’s director of post-conviction litigation. Jimenez is in desperate need of a kidney transplant but if she remains in custody, she will never be considered for one.
- Travis County District Attorney Margaret Moore has the power to free Jimenez, but instead has refused to re-examine the case and consider the opinions of the four judges who have said Jimenez is likely innocent. Moore is supporting the Attorney General’s appeal and is vowing to retry Jimenez.