HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KTRE) - HOUSTON COUNTY, TX (KTRE) -
The state's top criminal appeals court has agreed to review whether a former East Texas nurse was properly convicted of capital murder and sentenced to life without parole for killing five dialysis patients by injecting them with bleach.
According to the Associated Press, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals said Wednesday it will consider written arguments on whether the jury instructions at Kimberly Saenz's 2012 trial failed to require a unanimous agreement on which individuals Saenz killed at a clinic in Lufkin.
"Appellant Kimberly Saenz respectfully requests that this court grant oral argument," stated the petition for discretionary review. "Her petition raised an issue of first impression before this court, and the errors raised on appeal involved the pervasive denial of Ms. Saenz's constitutional and statutory rights. The Court of Appeals' opinion did not address the issues as thoroughly as the law requires, and oral argument is necessary for a full and fair resolution."
In the petition for discretionary review, Saenz's attorneys argued that the Angelina County District Attorney's Office sought the death penalty, despite no direct or forensics evidence proving beyond a reasonable doubt that she killed up to five of her dialysis patients and injured an additional five patients by injecting their dialysis lines with bleach."
Former Angelina County District Attorney Clyde Herrington tired the case and said Saenz's was caught red handed.
"A patient reported seeing Kim inject two other patients with bleach," Herrington said.
Herrington further explained in most murder cases the motive is quite obvious but this case was quite complex.
"She didn't have control over many areas of her life but she could control her patients. She had power of life and death over them," Herrington said.
Saenz's attorneys claimed that the state told the jurors they could convict Saenz of capital murder if they found beyond a reasonable doubt that she intentionally or knowingly caused the death of "more than one" of five alleged victims, "without unanimous agreement as to which specific victims were murdered."
Saenz's attorneys argued in the petition that a jury must unanimously agree on the identity and the number of murder victims to support the capital murder charge.
A lower appeals court upheld her conviction and sentence earlier this year.
"Additionally, the Court dismissed counsel's failure to object to the jury charge as indicative of ineffectiveness because it found the jury charge to be proper," the petition for discretionary review stated. "However, it was not just counsel's failure to object to the jury charge that exhibited representation below the professional norms. Counsel did not object to a jury charge that he believed to be improper, as evidenced by his Motion for New Trial"
In addition, Saenz's attorneys contended in the petition for discretionary review that the Fourth Court of Appeals ruled Saenz "did not receive ineffective assistance of counsel," despite the fact that it did not conduct a thorough review of the issues regarding ineffective legal representation that were brought up in the initial appeal.
The Angelina District Attorney's office said that Sanez's now has 30 days to file a brief with the Court of Criminal Appeals. Once that appeal is in, the Angelina County District Attorney Office then has 30 days to file a response.
The Court of Criminal Appeals ultimately could order a new trial for Saenz.
An Angelina County jury convicted Saenz, 40, of capital murder and three counts of aggravated assault on March 30, 2012. On April 2, the jury sentenced Saenz to life in prison. Because it was a capital offense, she will never be eligible for parole. The jury also handed down three 20-year prison sentences for the assault charges.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.