A woman imprisoned for a murder she claimed she didn't commit will get a new trial.
A judge granted a new trial for Kirstin Blaise Lobato on Tuesday.
Lobato was convicted of murdering Duran Bailey, a homeless man. Bailey was found killed in July 2001. His body was left in a bank trash enclosure across the street from what is now the Palms Casino Resort.
More than two months before the murder, Lobato told people she was attacked by a man. She told multiple people that she pulled out a pocket knife and was able to slash near the man's groin, he fell over and she ran away. She told a teacher about the attack who in turn, told a probation officer. Police questioned her about the attack then arrested her for murder. At first, she said she thought she had possibly killed her attacker until she saw a picture of Bailey in court and realized that was not the man who attacked her.
Lobato was 18 at the time of the murder. For 16 years she maintained her innocence, even rejecting an offer from the District Attorney's office to get out of prison, because accepting the deal meant her convictions would still stand.
At the crime scene, which is across the street from what became the Palms, there was also no physical evidence tying her to the murder. Lobato's conviction was secured by what the prosecution deemed was a confession. In her own words, Lobato detailed a sexual assault which happened to her in May, which she said had nothing to do with Duran Bailey. The prosecution argued it was a confession.
Following the first trial, Lobato was convicted of murder and sexual mutilation of a body, because some of Bailey's injuries happened after he was dead. Following the second trial, she was convicted of a lesser charge, manslaughter and once again sexual mutilation of a dead body.
After each of those convictions, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled there were problems with her conviction. This latest time, the Court ordered an evidentiary hearing. Judge Stefany Miley presided over the hearing and ruled there was enough evidence to warrant a new trial for Lobato.
The evidentiary hearing centered heavily around time of death because more than a dozen people placed Lobato 165 miles away in Panaca shortly before and shortly after the murder.
The prosecutor in this case was Bill Kephart. Recently Kephart was publicly reprimanded for violation of the rules of processional conduct. Another case of Kephart's, involving a man named Fred Steese was also recently overturned after it was proven Steese was innocent of murder.
Lobato maintained that police mixed up her attack with Bailey's murder. On two occasions, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled there were problems with her conviction.
The case was eventually sent back to district court which resulted in a five-day long hearing. During the hearing, the Innocence Project argued that her lawyers did not narrow down a time of death. Adding the time is crucial because more than 14 witnesses placed Lobato 175 miles away in Panaca before and after the body was found.
A judge scheduled Lobato's next court hearing for Jan. 24, 2018.
Lobato is being represented by the Innocence Project pro bono. Lobato could be released pending her new trial.
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