chevron-down Created with Sketch Beta.
March 27, 2024

ABA urges U.S. Supreme Court to reconsider Texas capital case involving deficient DNA evidence

CHICAGO, March 27, 2024 — The American Bar Association filed an amicus brief today with the U.S. Supreme Court, asking the court for the second time to take up a Texas death penalty case in which defendant Areli Escobar was convicted on DNA evidence and testimony from a police laboratory that was later deemed unreliable by the state.

In 2022, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals denied relief to Escobar, even though a state habeas court had determined that reliability problems at the police laboratory that processed the DNA evidence used to secure Escobar’s conviction and death sentence called into question whether Escobar received a fair trial. The state agreed with Escobar’s request for relief and confessed error in the case.

Escobar petitioned the U.S. Supreme Court to review his case, and the ABA filed an amicus brief in support, relying on the ABA’s Criminal Justice Standards on DNA Evidence. The Supreme Court vacated the ruling by the Court of Criminal Appeals and remanded the case for further consideration in light of the state’s confession of error. But on remand, the Texas court again denied Escobar relief, prompting Escobar to petition the Supreme Court for review again and the ABA to file a second amicus brief in support.

“This case involves a remarkable confession of error by the prosecution based on state court findings that petitioner’s conviction was based on false, misleading and unreliable DNA evidence,” the new ABA brief said. It added that on remand the appeals court failed to add “anything substantive to its prior analysis, other than a clarification that it had consciously disregarded the state’s confession of error and believed, in conflict with essentially every other stakeholder in the case, that the evidence does not warrant relief.”

The case has provided the ABA its first opportunity to bring its Criminal Justice Standards on DNA Evidence to the Supreme Court’s attention. The standards were approved as policy by the ABA House of Delegates in 2007 and recommended “minimum requirements for the collection, handling, analysis and use of DNA evidence in criminal cases.”

The new ABA brief in Escobar v. Texas is here. The law firm of Sparacino PLLC in Washington, D.C., filed both briefs pro bono on behalf of the ABA.

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.