First the trial: Today begins a new milestone in the bizarre saga of Laura Hall.
In August 2007, Hall, a University of Texas student, was convicted of helping her then-lover, Colton Pitonyak, flee to Mexico to escape prosecution in the 2005 murder of a young woman named Jennifer Cave. But there was something more, something hideous. Hall, who'd hoped law school was in her future, was also found guilty of tampering with evidence, specifically helping to dismember Cave's corpse.
The Pitonyak case, some of you may remember, was the subject of my fifth true crime bookA Descent Into Hell.
Hall appealed her convictions. She failed in the biggest sense: the guilty verdict was upheld. But Hall won on another front: the court ruled that she was entitled to a new sentencing. Why? Early on the one witness put on the stand to testify during the sentencing phase, a cab driver, didn't identify Hall from a police photo lineup. That fact wasn't disclosed to Hall's defense attorney. Looking at the case, I can't disagree with the court. Hall's attorney deserved to know that information while the witness was on the stand.
Still, I'm wondering if this new sentencing trial will turn out to be a win for Laura Hall, or if she'll one day rue her decision to proceed with it.
Why? This is a horrendous murder, a bloody, awful crime scene, sure to raise emotions. On the first go-around, Hall was eligible for up to a ten-year sentence, but the jury only gave her five. She's already served 22 months and is eligible for parole. Why should she be worried? The bottom line is that Hall is unable to keep her mouth shut.
Friday, July 2, 2010: As I predicted above, Laura Hall's appeal didn't go as she'd hoped. The jury just gave her the max, 10 years, twice the original sentence. Laura, you should have been careful what you wished for!