AUSTIN (KXAN) — For nearly two decades, Rosa Jimenez has maintained her innocence. On Monday, a judge granted Jimenez’ attorney’s motion to dismiss charges against her.
In 2005, Jimenez was convicted in the death of a 21-month-old child in her care in Austin. According to testimony from the original trial, the boy choked on a wad of paper towels.
At the time, prosecutors argued Jimenez intentionally forced the paper towels down the baby’s throat. The Innocence Project, which represents Jimenez, have argued the child’s death was, instead, a tragic accident.
At a hearing in 2021, several pediatric airway experts testified that the original witnesses likely did not have pediatric experience or were not as familiar with serious airway obstructions — and “defaulted into a conclusion that was just simply wrong,” one testified.
At the time, the Travis County District Attorney’s Office Civil Integrity Unit joined Ms. Jimenez’s counsel in requesting her release.
KXAN investigators have spoken to Jimenez in two exclusive interviews: in 2020, from the Gatesville prison where she served more than 15 years and again in 2021, after she was released on bond following that evidentiary hearing.
“I believe I am going to be exonerated, eventually,” she told KXAN at the time.
In an Austin courtroom on Monday, she saw that come true.
Two months ago, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals reviewed the case and determined Jimenez was convicted based on false testimony. Their decision stated she was entitled to relief and remanded the case back down to the trial court.
The district attorney’s office then filed a motion to dismiss the charges against Jimenez, with one of the assistant district attorneys saying, “no credible evidence exists that inculpates the defendant.”
District Judge Karen Sage granted the motion almost immediately, offering an apology.
“Years – decades – of your life were taken away, needlessly,” she told Jimenez, who appeared on Zoom from New York City with her legal team.
Representatives from the Innocence Project said that Jimenez’ daughter, her son and her own mother were watching the hearing on the livestream. They told the court today was significant for another reason: Jimenez’ daughter was in labor.
“These are the times we want our mothers,” said Vanessa Potkin, Director of Special Litigation at The Innocence Project. She noted Jimenez will now be able to be with her daughter and her new grandbaby.
In a virtual press conference held immediately following the judge’s decision, the team of attorneys reminded people Jimenez had been diagnosed with kidney disease and is in need of a life-saving kidney transplant. They explained she is currently in New York, “being evaluated at Weill Cornell in preparation for a transplant.”
When asked about the judge’s decision, Jimenez said, “I know a chapter of my life is over today, and I have my whole life ahead of me.”