AUSTIN - A Texas woman convicted of murder in the 2003 choking death of a boy she was babysitting was released from prison on bond after a judge said new evidence shows she didn't intentionally hurt the child.
Travis County District Judge Karen Sage ordered Rosa Jimenez released on bond Wednesday, citing "clear and convincing evidence." The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals will make the ultimate decision on whether to overturn Jimenez's conviction or grant a new trial.
Jimenez has served 15 years in prison in the death of 21-month-old Bryan Gutierrez, who choked on a wad of paper towels while in Jimenez's care.
Sage's decision followed testimony from three pediatric airway specialists who said Jimenez could not have forced the clump of towels down the boy's throat, as prosecutors alleged in her original 2005 trial. The Travis County district attorney's office filed an affidavit stating one of the experts who testified in the original trial changed their opinion after reviewing the new statements from airway experts.
"Justice delayed is justice denied, and I am deeply sorry for that," Sage said in her decision.
During a news conference with the Innocence Project after her release, Jimenez thanked supporters for sticking by her "all these years."
"Thank you so much, and I am just going to try to live my life with my kids," Jimenez said.
The Innocence Project, which is representing Jimenez, said Jimenez has advanced kidney disease that makes her particularly vulnerable to COVID-19, which has ravaged prisons throughout the U.S.
Jimenez was sentenced to 99 years in prison. After her release Wednesday from the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, about 100 miles (160 kilometers) north of Austin, she was taken into custody by U.S. Immigrations and Customs Enforcement, because she was not in the U.S. legally when she was arrested. She was then taken to the Mexican Consulate in San Antonio.