Judge orders new trial for David Flores

David Flores, convicted of killing Phyllis Davis in April 1996, may get a new trial, the Des Moines Register reports today:

In a rare move, Polk County District Judge Don Nickerson ruled that David Flores’ constitutional right to due process was violated because a key police report naming another suspect was never turned over to his original defense lawyer.

Nickerson also found to be credible new testimony this year from a woman who said that suspect, Rafael Robinson, admitted he accidentally shot Davis.

Nickerson’s ruling indicated those two elements likely would have affected the outcome of Flores’ trial in 1997. […]

Polk County Attorney John Sarcone said Wednesday he “respectfully but strongly” disagreed with the judge’s decision. He has asked the state attorney general’s office to appeal the ruling to the Iowa Supreme Court on his office’s behalf.

An appeal before the state’s high court typically takes nine months to a year. The court can opt not to hear an appeal. In that case, Sarcone would have to decide whether to try Flores anew or set him free.

The Des Moines Register has a timeline of the Flores case here, as well as a good piece by Lee Rood on seven people who “cast doubt on evidence that helped convict Flores.Commenting on the case last year, Rob Warden of the Center for Wrongful Convictions at the Northwestern University School of Law

said he’s never heard of an alleged wrongful conviction case in which three separate people came forward independently to name another suspect.

“There’s an extremely high probability that he’s innocent,” said Warden, whose [center] has helped exonerate dozens of people. “The fact that you now have three people who don’t have any connection to each other and no discernible motive to do anything but tell the truth is just extremely persuasive.”

Speaking to the Des Moines Register yesterday, Polk County Attorney Sarcone dismissed the police report implicating Robinson as “two or three levels of hearsay.” I am no lawyer, but if multiple witnesses also say Robinson killed Davis, it is hard for me to believe prosecutors could prove Flores guilty beyond reasonable doubt in a new trial.  

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