Appeal denied after allegations of evidence tampering

Jillian Bliss

On Wednesday, a court denied the appeal of an accessory to a West Campus murder case who was previously convicted of tampering with murder evidence.

Laura Ashley Hall claimed the conviction was not valid because prosecutors did not reveal the allegations that the Austin Police Department forensics lab “had been accused of doing substandard, shoddy and incomplete DNA analysis with lax training and quality controls,” according to the court document.

In 2005, then-UT student Hall was sentenced to 5 years in jail for altering evidence in the murder of Austin resident Jennifer Cave. Prosecution claimed Hall assisted then-UT student Colton Pitonyak in the mutilation of Cave’s body and also helped him escape to Mexico. While Pitonyak received a 55-year sentence for murder, Hall appealed during the hearing, according to the Aug. 24 court appeals document. Hall’s case went back to court in 2009 before a new jury, where she was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the same crime based on previously unpresented evidence.

The appeals court cleared the crime lab of all allegations and stated Hall’s appeal would more likely be hurt than supported by allegations of false lab results, since original results came back clear of Hall’s DNA.

Hall’s representative, attorney Joe James Sawyer, could not be reached for comment.