A Travis County District judge denied a motion for a new trial today for Meechaiel Criner, who was found guilty less than two months ago of the capital murder of dance freshman Haruka Weiser.
In July, a jury found Criner guilty of capital murder in the April 2016 death of Weiser, sentencing him to an automatic life sentence with the possibility of parole in 40 years. Defense attorneys later filed a motion for a new trial amid allegations of jury misconduct.
On Sept. 12, the defense withdrew allegations of jury misconduct and presented new forensic data from a re-evaluation of Criner’s tablet, arguing that he was actively using the device during the time period when surveillance cameras showed a man riding a bicycle and then following Weiser near Waller Creek. State prosecutors said the tablet activity could have been caused by the device jostling in a backpack, but the defense said the activity meant Criner was actively using it.
Judge David Wahlberg ruled Tuesday that Criner’s attorneys failed to present evidence that would have convinced a jury to change their guilty verdict. According to the judge, the new evidence that Criner’s defense presented at the September hearing, though valid, would not have indicated Criner’s innocence.
“I’ve concluded that the evidence relating to this computer does constitute newly discovered evidence that was both unknown and unavailable at the time of trial,” Wahlberg said. “The (new) evidence is nothing more than a rabbit trail … Any evidence relating to this data on his computer would have in no way affected the guilty verdict in this case.”
Criner was present for the hearing.
“Thanks everyone,” Criner said as he left the courtroom following the motion’s denial.