CARSON CITY — A woman serving a lengthy prison sentence for killing and cutting off the penis of a homeless man in Las Vegas in 2001 has won the right to a new court hearing on claims she is innocent of the crime.
The Nevada Supreme Court, in a unanimous decision, ordered an evidentiary hearing on several claims raised by Kirstin Blaise Lobato, who appealed her conviction on charges of manslaughter and sexual penetration of a dead body.
Lobato’s case has become a cause célèbre for a large group of supporters who say she was wrongly convicted of the murder of Duran Bailey in July 2001 during what prosecutors described as a three-day methamphetamine binge. Bailey, 44, who was homeless and sometimes slept in a trash bin, was known for trading drugs for sex.
The Supreme Court said a hearing is needed on the decision made by her legal counsel at trial not to hire an expert witness to pinpoint the time of death. Time of death is crucial in the case because there is unquestioned evidence that Lobato was in Panaca at midday and early evening on July 8, 2001.
Bailey’s body was found about 10 p.m. on July 8 and the only evidence as to time of death came from the medical examiner who said death could have occurred as early as 10 p.m. on July 7.
The Supreme Court said it is not clear whether the decision not to hire an expert to pinpoint the time of death is reasonable in the case, given that the theory of her innocence is directly related to her alibi of being out of the area at the time of the killing.
As part of her appeal of the Clark County District Court denial of her post-conviction petition, Lobato submitted affidavits of forensic experts who said the victim died sometime after 8 p.m. on July 8, which the court noted would have moved the time of death well into the time frame of when prosecutors conceded Lobato was in Panaca.
NO PHYSICAL EVIDENCE
The court said the jury had no physical evidence linking Lobato to the murder, and likely relied on her statements to police that she committed the crime to find her guilty.
The Supreme Court also ordered the evidentiary hearing to consider Lobato’s claims of innocence based on new evidence.
Her other claims were rejected by the court.
Lobato was sentenced to 13 years to 45 years in prison after being found guilty of manslaughter by a jury in 2006. Lobato, who was 19 at the time of the crime, is now 33. She is serving her sentence at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center in Las Vegas.
Lobato was originally sentenced in 2002 to 40 to 100 years in prison after being found guilty of murder with the use of a deadly weapon and sexual penetration of a human body.
Before her conviction, Lobato rejected a plea agreement that would have resulted in a sentence of three years in prison.
Two years later, the Nevada Supreme Court granted Lobato a new trial. The court ruled that Lobato should have been given the chance to present evidence challenging the credibility of a jailhouse informant who testified against her.
The new trial resulted in the conviction on the manslaughter charge and led to the appeal that was heard in oral argument by the Supreme Court in September of 2014.
Contact Sean Whaley at email@example.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.