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Pitonyak Hearing Tuesday For West Campus Murder

Updated: Tuesday, August 27 2013, 05:54 AM CDT
It's one of the most gruesome murders in Austin history: the murder of Jennifer Cave and dismemberment of her body.

On Tuesday morning, Colton Pitonyak, the man convicted of killing Cave in a West Campus apartment in 2005, could take the first step toward getting a new trial.

The hearing with the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is one Pitonyak's lawyers feel is long overdue as they've been maintaining his innocence for years.

This is the evidence sending one of Austin's most notorious murder cases back to court: a note in the electronic jail file of Pitonyak's accomplice, Laura Hall, who is currently serving time for tampering with evidence.

In the note from 2005, a jail medical counselor reports two inmates heard hall confess to Cave's murder. Pitonyak's lawyer, Chris Perri, argues prosecutors had a duty to search Hall's jail file during Pitonyak's trial since they knew she was talking to cellmates and her DNA was on the murder weapon.

"When you withhold that type of evidence, that type of key evidence like a confession from Colton's defense team...they don't have any evidence to say it was Laura, so they had to go to another tactic and say 'Well we can't think of anything else that happen, so Colton must have done it,'" said Perri.

Perri tells us Tuesday's hearing should last an hour. According to the Austin-American Statesman, the court generally takes 30 days to issue a ruling, and the defense must prove two things: that the state found out about the jail record but didn't tell the defense team, and that it could have changed those attorneys' strategy.
Perri says if the defense loses this round, Pitonyak's lawyers will appeal the case up to the U.S. Supreme Court. He adds they have investigators "keeping their eyes open if there's any other evidence…that proves (Pitonyak's) actual innocence."

The hearing starts at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Pitonyak is currently serving a 55-year sentence for the murder.Pitonyak Hearing Tuesday For West Campus Murder

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