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Bell County District Court Judge Signs Release Order for Michael Arena



AUSTIN, June 1, 2012 -- Pursuant to an order signed by the Bell County District Court, Michael Arena will be released from prison today into the custody of his father after serving almost 13 years of a 20-year sentence for sexual assault.

On May 18, the Supreme Court of Texas issued an opinion granting habeas corpus relief to Arena and remanding his case to the district court for a new sentencing hearing. Baker Botts L.L.P. represented Arena (pro bono) during this phase of the appeal process.

When he was 15, Arena was convicted of sexual assault of his cousin. A year later, the young girl recanted her accusation, stating that her mother, who was embroiled in a bitter custody dispute at the time, had told her to make the false accusation so that the mother would not be arrested for abducting the girl and her brother.

Still later, it was discovered that the psychologist who testified at Arena’s sentencing had misrepresented the reliability and applicability of psychological tests he had administered to Arena to reach this conclusion.

Clint Broden, a Dallas criminal defense attorney, agreed to take Arena’s habeas corpus claim pro bono. He sought relief from the Bell County District Court, where Arena was originally convicted, on the grounds of actual innocence and due process violation based on the State’s use of false testimony. That court rejected the requested relief and the Austin Court of Appeals affirmed that decision.

Broden reached out to Baker Botts for assistance with Arena’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Texas.

Baker Botts lawyer Dustin Howell, a litigation associate in the firm’s Austin office and a former clerk for Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson, prepared the briefing filed in the Supreme Court and presented oral argument on the issue of the State’s use of false testimony.

The Court ultimately granted habeas corpus relief on this ground, holding that the psychologist’s false testimony during the sentencing phase of Arena’s trial deprived him of due process.

The Texas Supreme Court opinion can be found here:

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