A Mexican woman who was sentenced to 99 years in prison for murdering a Texas boy has received help from the president-elect of Mexico, who filed a brief with the U.S. Supreme Court asking for a review of the case.
Rosa Estela Olvera Jimenez was convicted of murdering a 21-month-old boy she was babysitting in 2003. Prosecutors said the Mexican national held the boy down and shoved paper towels down his throat, a claim Jimenez denies.
The amicus curiae brief, which was filed Monday by president-elect Enrique Pena Nieto in a personal capacity, the governor of Mexico and a Mexican lawyer, says Jimenez was denied her due process rights in a trial that hinged solely on expert witnesses brought in by Texas prosecutors.
Among the accusations are that Jimenez's counsel made "unprofessional errors" and that she was not given adequate funds to hire expert witnesses during her 2005 trial.
"Granting Rosa's petition could rescue an innocent woman from languishing in prison for the rest of her life, cut off from her daughter and the son born to her in jail as she awaited trial," the brief states.
Jimenez's case could have an effect on other Mexican nationals who are facing trial in the United States, according to the brief.
More than 2 million Mexican nationals live in Texas. Many of them are undocumented and lack the financial resources to receive fair trials, the brief states.
Jimenez, who was five months pregnant at the time of the incident, has maintained her innocence, saying the boy ate the paper towels himself.
The toddler's body had no bruises or scratches and Jimenez's DNA was not found on the paper towels, according to the brief.
The State of Mexico provided funds for Jimenez to hire experts and pursue a habeas corpus petition in 2010. A U.S. District Court judge granted Jimenez's request for a new trial on the grounds of inaffective counsel and expert assistance.
On April 25, 2010, however, the Texas Court of Appeals struck down the ruling, denying Jimenez a new trial.
Ryan Bates, the attorney handling Jimenez's appeal, said he and his client were "extremely gratified" by the support her case has received.
"The reason Rosa's case has drawn support from so many is the fact she makes a truly compelling claim of actual innocence," he said.
Pena Nieto was elected president of Mexico in July and will take office in December.