Court to hear closing arguments in Roberson hearing

·3 min read

Jan. 29—Judge Deborah Evans will hear closing arguments in the state's proceedings of the death penalty case of Robert Roberson Monday, Jan. 31. The court proceedings are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Monday in the main room of the Anderson County Courthouse and are expected to last until noon.

Roberson was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death in 2003 for the death of Nikki Curtis, his two-year-old daughter.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed his scheduled June 21, 2016 execution and sent Roberson's case back to the trial court level to consider the merits of four distinct claims including a "junk science" claim.

An evidentiary hearing initially began in August 2018 but was placed on continuance Aug. 14, 2018 after District Clerk Teresia Coker found 15-year-old evidence, including Nikki's lost head CAT scans in the Anderson County Courthouse basement.

After a two and a half year hiatus, the evidentiary hearing was held in March 2021 in a hybrid of Zoom and in-person testimony at the Anderson County Courthouse.

The evidentiary hearing took eight days.

Roberson's legal team, led by Gretchen Sween, called a total of six witnesses, including three experts, to the stand before resting after six days of testimony.

After hearing from attorneys for Roberson and the State on Monday and considering the totality of the evidence, Evans will make a recommendation. The case will then go back to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for an automatic review and a final determination as to whether Roberson should receive a new trial.

During the March 2021 evidentiary hearing, Roberson's defense made four claims, including his actual innocence of causing the death of his two-year-old daughter, Nikki. His defense also presented new evidence calling into question the "integrity of his conviction." If any of the four claims presented are accepted by the courts, Roberson will be entitled to a new trial.

The judge then has 15 days to write a Findings of Facts and conclusions of law and submit them back to the Court of Criminal Appeals. The CCA will review these findings and conclusions, which could take over a year, before a decision is rendered by the highest appeals court in Texas.

Roberson has long maintained he does not understand what happened to his daughter and he had no intent to harm her, or cause her death.

Ron Keine, a death row exoneree who works with the national advocacy organization, Witness to Innocence, will be in attendance and will provide a statement of support for Roberson on behalf of the organization after the hearing concludes.

Witness to Innocence is the only national organization in the United States composed of and led by exonerated death row survivors and their family members. The mission of WTI is to abolish the death penalty by empowering exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones to become effective leaders in the abolition movement.