Killer wife wants new trial

June 1, 2009 3:27:56 PM PDT
A woman convicted in south Texas of stabbing to death her common-law husband has requested a new trial, citing the medical examiner's botched autopsy in a previous case in Alabama. The attorney for America Elizabeth Martinez says the medical examiner who testified about the stabbing lied about her credentials. A hearing on the motion was scheduled for Thursday in Laredo.

Dr. Corinne Stern exaggerated her qualifications and testified outside her expertise when she said the stab wound suffered by 43-year-old Alfredo Torres could not have been an accident, said Fausto Sosa, Martinez's attorney.

Martinez, who has been sentenced to 40 years in prison, told authorities the stabbing occurred accidentally during a heated fight.

Because of recent questions raised about Stern's other work, "her testimony that there was no way on earth this could be an accident is undermined," Sosa said.

He points to a decision by an Alabama judge throwing out a case against a woman charged in her infant's death after finding Stern botched the autopsy. The baby's mother spent nine months in jail after Stern, then working in Alabama, said the stillborn baby had been suffocated -- a finding that six experts concluded was wrong.

Alabama authorities promised to review all the cases handled by Stern after Circuit Judge James Moore threw out the case against Bridget Lee.

No similar review of Stern's work has been ordered in Laredo, though she's testified as the medical examiner in just a handful of murder cases in south Texas so far.

Stern became the first medical examiner in Webb County in 2007. The border county previously relied on San Antonio authorities for autopsy help.

Stern's office said Monday that she was out and not checking messages, but in a letter received by Sosa, she noted that the Alabama case was in no way related to the Martinez case.

"My findings in this case are very clear and accurate," she wrote. "My testimony was clear and concise and it represents the facts of this case."

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