Appeals court considers more DNA testing in 2001 murder case
A panel of three appeals court judges sitting on the 13th Court of Appeals is considering arguments to allow more DNA testing in a contested 2001 Valley murder conviction.
Gustavo Mireles was convicted in 2002 of murdering Mary Jane Rebollar, whose body was found in a burnt vehicle after she was seen with Mireles in Alamo prior to her death, according to court records.
Mireles’ family say the DNA evidence used by prosecutors was overly selective. They are asking the appeals court to test 20 additional samples of DNA gathered in the investigation.
“Part of it was that this was a DNA case,” Jessica Freud with the Innocence Project of Texas said. “And that without the DNA, the state would not have been able to secure a conviction."
Lenor Matano, Mireles’ sister, says she and her family aren't giving up the fight for more DNA testing.
“They thought that my brother had no chance in hell and nobody was going to care about my brother,” Matano said. “But we do care. We care for justice.”
Attorneys representing Mireles, Freud and Matano asked the 332nd District Court to test 20 different pieces of DNA evidence. That request was approved by the court in December 2021. The state appealed that order, bringing it to the 13th Court of Appeals.
According to the attorneys, prosecutors linked Mireles to the victim with some samples, but left out others.
The 2002 conviction is also clouded by the 2003 audit of the Texas Department of Public Safety’s McAllen crime lab that found 300 different cases were mishandled, according to the attorneys.
“There are several items that we argued were affected by the 2003 McAllen lab shutdown,” Freud said. “[A section of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure] gives some particular relief when there are issues at labs. When there has been a failed audit, it entitles certain individuals to test when a lab that their testing was previously done falls under that characterization."
A decision on that appeal is still pending. Freud said a decision could take months.