SAN ANGELO, TX -- District Judge Barbara Walther ordered all DNA testing halted in the capital murder trials for all five defendants in the killing of Eric Torrez.
One defendant, Stephen Jennings, had a motion hearing before District Judge Jay Weatherby Monday afternoon. Attorneys representing all five defendants were present along with District Attorney John Best and witnesses for the prosecution.
Best argued that the DNA testing should be done by the Texas Department of Public Safety Crime Lab.
Jenning's lead defense attorney John Wright from the Regional Public Defenders for Capital Cases office argued that the DNA testing should be conducted by an independent lab where experts from both sides could observe the process of testing the physical evidence for DNA.
Judge Weatherby allowed attorneys for all the defendants to address the court. At issue is that of the 50 or so pieces of physical evidence needing to be tested, some 8 to 10 of those pieces don't have enough material to test more than once and attorneys for each of the five defendants said they wanted to conduct separate testing on the evidence.
Judge Weatherby told the attorneys that DNA testing has been halted because of Judge Walther's order. That order states, "...there is a necessity that all Co-Defendants have the opportunity to be heard on the issue of scientific testing of the evidence that has been collected." The order continues, "Therefore it is the Order of this Court that all Defendants be given notice of any hearing that will determine any matter with regard to the scientific testing of any evidence that has been collected."
Jennings along with Angella Wray, Kristen Jennings, David Navarro and Gary Jennings are charged with murdering Eric Torrez in July 2017 at a residence on Duckworth Rd. in Tom Green County. Reports indicate they then transported Torrez's body to Crockett County where law enforcement officials found it about a week later.
Capital Murder in Texas is punishable by death or life in prison without the possibility of parole.