The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday granted Michael Roy Toney the right to a new trial, agreeing that Tarrant County prosecutors improperly withheld evidence during his capital murder trial in the 1985 bombing deaths of three people.
Toney will likely be transferred from Death Row to Tarrant County, where he will await a decision from prosecutors on whether to retry the 23-year-old case.
Toney’s attorneys say that he is not guilty and that no reliable evidence connects him to the bombing.
"We are very happy that relief was granted today," said Jared Tyler, an attorney with the Texas Innocence Network. "We believe it is a big step toward proving Michael’s innocence."
Chuck Mallin, chief of the appellate division of the district attorney’s office said prosecutors will meet with District Attorney Tim Curry and decide whether to retry the case "probably sometime in the near future."
"I am sure that it is our intention right now [to retry it], but we will discuss the decision," Mallin said.
The district attorney’s office acknowledged this year that at least 14 documents that could have been favorable to Toney’s defense were not given to his lawyers during his 1999 trial.
Prosecutors and Toney’s attorneys jointly requested a new trial.
The court ruling Wednesday affirmed an order signed in October by state District Judge Everett Young that Toney should receive a new trial. Young presided over Toney’s first trial.
Susan Blount, whose daughter Angela, 15, and husband, Joe Blount, died in the bombing, said she wanted Toney to be convicted again but was not looking forward to another trial.
She said she was disappointed that prosecutors "did not complete their jobs" the first time.
"I just want this over and done with," she said. "I’ve been dealing with this for over 23 years now. I tell people that I’ll probably be in my grave before I ever see this thing come to an end."
However, she added "Yes, we’ll be there for another trial," she said.
Mike Parrish, the lead prosecutor at Toney’s trial, whose responsibility it was to turn over the evidence to the defense, left the district attorney’s office this year. He told the Star-Telegram recently that he is "unable to comment on pending criminal cases."
Rebecca Bauer Kahan, another of Toney’s attorneys, said it is unclear when Toney could be transferred to the Tarrant County Jail; he is awaiting a mandate from the appeals court.
The crime On Thanksgiving Day 1985, Angela Blount, 15, found a briefcase outside the door to her family’s trailer in the Hilltop Mobile Home Park in Lake Worth. After she brought it inside and opened it, a bomb exploded, killing her; her father, Joe Blount, 44; and her cousin Michael Columbus, 18.
The investigation The case was unsolved for 12 years until a prisoner in the Parker County Jail told authorities that Toney had boasted about the bombing. The prisoner later recanted.
The trial No physical evidence connected Toney to the bombing. His ex-wife, Kim Toney, and former best friend Chris Meeks testified 14 years later that they saw him the night of the bombing carrying a briefcase in the direction of the Blounts’ trailer. Toney was convicted and sentenced to death in May 1999.
The new evidence Toney’s lawyers say the new evidence suggests that Meeks and Kim Toney were manipulated and intimidated into giving statements that fit investigators’ preconceived notions of how the crime occurred. Prosecutors say they remain convinced that Toney is guilty.