#babysister | #nanny | ‘Case is a tragedy’ – After 16 years behind bars, babysitter convicted of killing child released in San Antonio



Rosa Jimenez is free on bail after 16 years in state prison, released because a state district judge and the new Travis County district attorney believe she was wrongly convicted of killing a toddler in her care in 2003.

Jimenez’s case, bogged down in legal wrangling for years, roared to life this month as prosecutors, defense lawyers and state District Judge Karen Sage — acting with unusual speed — agreed that the Austin babysitter was unfairly blamed for killing the child who choked to death on a wad of paper towels.

“All of the medical evidence that is available to us at this time suggests that Miss Jimenez could not and did not commit this crime,” Sage said.

Jimenez was released from prison in Gatesville on Wednesday morning and taken into custody by agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement because she was an undocumented immigrant when she was arrested.

ICE released her from custody in San Antonio hours later, and she made an emotional phone call to her mother in Mexico before she returned to Austin. ICE has the option of releasing individuals based on the circumstances of their cases; details on the conditions of her release weren’t immediately available.

For now, Jimenez is free on a no-money bond and will stay in Travis County while her appeal, and efforts to be declared innocent, continue.

It took only three weeks from the time Jimenez’s latest appeal was filed until Sage ordered her released from prison on bail this week.

Sage determined that Jimenez was convicted of choking the child because jurors were provided false and misleading testimony by prosecution experts who lacked proper expertise.

District Attorney Jose Garza, who worked in the prosecutor’s office for a month before taking over Jan. 1, and other top officials had already begun reviewing Jimenez’s case, and they were able to react quickly when defense lawyers filed a new appeal Jan. 4.

“We reviewed it thoroughly,” Garza said. “And after reviewing the evidence, we thought it was clear and that it needed to be in front of the court as soon as possible.”

The evidence included a new consensus report by four leading experts in pediatric airways and the mechanics of choking, including three who testified at a hearing Tuesday before Sage. The report rebutted trial prosecutors who argued that Jimenez forced paper towels down 21-month-old Bryan Gutierrez’s throat, leading to his death.

The experts concluded there was no evidence of a titanic struggle that would have ensued had Jimenez tried to forcefully choke the boy. They also said the child most likely filled his mouth with the paper towels and reflexively swallowed, with the throat muscles working to compact the wad.

At Jimenez’s 2005 trial, prosecution experts — none trained in pediatric airways medicine — testified that the towels could only have become compacted if forced by Jimenez, the only adult present, and that accidental swallowing was impossible in this case.

“This case is a tragedy,” Garza said. “It is a tragedy for Mrs. Gutierrez and her son, it is a tragedy for Miss Jimenez and her family, and my heart continues to break for Mrs. Gutierrez over the loss of her son and for the suffering she has had to endure through the entirety of this process.

“But our office has an obligation to seek out and pursue innocence, and we believe this is the right course of action in this case that is overwhelmingly supported by the evidence,” he said.

Sage said the new evidence, provided by the appropriate medical experts, led her to one important conclusion.



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