A man convicted of attempted capital murder in December is appealing his case after new evidence was uncovered favoring the defendant.
Roy Daniel Garza, 29, was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction in connection with the shooting of two Odessa police officers, Cpl. Cory Wester and Sgt. Pedro “Pete” Gonzalez during a nine-hour standoff at Clayton Manor Townhomes on Dec. 23, 2015. He was convicted and sentenced by a jury in the 161st District Court of Judge John Smith.
Garza surrendered to officers after the apartment he had been hiding in was destroyed by gunfire, gas canisters and an armored personnel carrier which had broken through the front wall.
Following his conviction, Garza’s former court-appointed lawyer, Michael McLeaish, filed a notice of appeal stating Garza wanted to appeal his conviction, and two weeks after that, a motion for a new trial was filed.
The reason Garza’s appeal was granted was because of new evidence that had been uncovered which favored the defense.
The defendant’s motion states on Dec. 15, Assistant District Attorney Michael Munk sent Garza’s counsel a letter disclosing forensic evidence relating to Wester’s vest previously unknown to the defense.
“At trial, the State argued to the jury that the hole was an alleged projectile exit hole which supported the State’s theory of Defendant’s guilt,” the document stated. “In contrast, the manufacture of the ballistic vest expressly disagreed with the State’s argument.”
In the letter written by the state, Munk stated Texas Ranger Randy Lewis, who investigated the Garza case and testified during the trial, had a conversation with someone from the vest manufacturer, Safariland, who claimed that oftentimes when officers wearing ballistic vests are shot, a large exit hole appears in the backside of the panel that is impacted, created due to the velocity, heat and pressure of the projectile.
The defense argued in their motion that, if the State had such information prior to trial, their failure to disclose that information violated the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 39.14, which requires the state to disclose all information that tends to negate the guilt of the defendant or would tend to reduce the punishment for the offense charged.
But District Attorney Bobby Bland said that Munk wasn’t informed of the evidence until after the trial was over during a conversation with Lewis. At which point, Bland said they turned over the information to the defense immediately, and had a hearing discussing the new piece of evidence.
“We did not receive [the evidence] until after the trial so we couldn’t have done anything wrong,” Bland said. “Based on the evidence that was deduced from that trial, I think it’s pretty clear that that wouldn’t have affected the outcome of that case.”
Garza is still entitled to a new trial under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Article 40.001, which states “[a] new trial shall be granted an accused when material evidence favorable to the accused has been discovered since trial.”
Michele Greene, Garza’s court-appointed attorney, declined to comment while the case is pending.
No trial date has been set yet. Texas court records show the trial will take place in the 11th Court of Appeals in Eastland.