KILLEEN, Texas — The conviction for a man who has served 10 years of a 28-year sentence has been thrown out, and a new trial will be held in the near future.
George Powell has maintained his innocence the entire time he's been behind bars. Now, he will have a chance to prove it.
Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled there was prosecutorial misconduct during his trial that prevented him from having a fair trial.
Powell was arrested after video from June 9, 2008, showed a man with a gun demand money and cigarettes from a Killeen 7-11, before running away. At the time, police believed this suspect was connected to four other robberies around Central Texas.
In early February, after several hearings last year, Bell County Judge John Gauntt found that Powell should be granted a new trial, saying Powell's due process rights were violated.
The case went to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals where it was determined the conviction should be vacated.
"This is what it comes down to, the prosecutors cheated and lied in order to convict an innocent man, so he's entitled to a new trial. We're confident that in a fair trial where the prosecutors don't cheat and lie, Mr. Powell will be acquitted," said Mike Ware, the lead attorney on the case and executive director of the Innocence Project of Texas.
In court, Powell's attorneys from the IPTX showed a false testimony from a jailhouse informant and major height discrepancies between Powell and the suspect captured in the crime video.
Powell will be moved back to Bell County Jail in a week to ten days. Powell's lawyer is working to have a bail set while he waits for his new trial.
George's fiance Tamara Parson's helped George obtain his new legal team at the Innocence Project and she's been fighting for his freedom for six years. She never gave up hope that one day he may return home.
"I think he's going to be as excited as I am right now. He wants to start a business so we've been planning how we're gonna do that. It's been six years now for me and that's a long time to be waiting, so it's a good day," Parsons said.
Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza said the county will retry the case.
"We have been in a posture of awaiting the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals concerning George Powell," Garza said. "That decision has been rendered today and in accordance with the decision the case against him has been remanded today for a new trial. Accordingly, George Powell will be returned to Bell County and we will proceed to try the case again."
Mike Ware, the lead attorney on the case and executive director of the IPTX, said if the Bell County District Attorney's Office doesn't recuse itself from the case, the defense will file a motion to recuse the DA's office.
"Are they going to make sure they won't lie and cheat when they try the case this time?" Ware said.
IPTX said it will file a motion for reconsideration of the actual innocence claims within the next 15 days. It will also ask for the state to sanction the Bell County DA's Office for what it believes was "unconscionable behavior" of Bell County prosecutors.
“This particular District Attorney’s office was not concerned about truth or justice; it was simply about winning a case," Ware said. "And more importantly, they are not concerned about setting this wrong, right. They only want to protect their wrongful conviction. And in the meantime, the actual perpetrator, who robbed at least five convenience stores at that time is still at large.”
IPTX is a nonprofit human service organization that provides legal and investigation assistance to low-income Texas citizens who were convicted of crimes they did not commit.
All of this comes just two days before a Netflix series highlighting George's case is set to premiere. It focuses on junk science and how it can lead to wrongful convictions. In George's case, an eye witness described the robber as 5 foot 6, George, however, is 6 foot 3. The major height discrepancies and questionable forensic video analysis caught the eye of Netflix and also proved to be major focal points during Ware's arguments.
Watch the Netflix trailer here:
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