Murder charge against Texas babysitter convicted of toddler’s choking death dismissed 20 years later

A judge dismissed murder charges against a Texas babysitter 20 years after she was accused in the choking death of a toddler.

Rosa Jimenez was sentenced to 99 years in prison after her 2005 conviction in the 2003 death of a 21-month-old child who choked on a wad of paper towels while in Jimenez’s care, Travis County District Attorney José Garza said Thursday. During the original trial, the state’s pathologist said it would have been impossible for the toddler to have accidentally choked on the paper towels and prosecutors argued Jimenez forced them into the child’s mouth. In the years since Jimenez’s conviction, numerous experts have said that the toddler’s choking was the result of a tragic accident.

“In the case against Rosa Jimenez, it is clear that false medical testimony was used to obtain her conviction, and without that testimony under the law, she would not have been convicted,” Garza said. “Dismissing Ms. Jimenez’s case is the right thing to do.”

Jimenez spent more than a decade behind bars before being released from prison in 2021, when State District Judge Karen Sage found Jimenez was likely innocent and, at a minimum, entitled to a new trial, according to Garza’s office. In May, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ruled that Jimenez was entitled to relief because of “false testimony” during her original trial. Judge Sage signed an order to dismiss the charges on Monday. 

“When we fail to seek justice and we fail to find the truth, we focus a lot on the instances on what it does to the accused, and you have suffered, but when we fail to make sure justice is done, it’s not just the accused that suffers it’s our whole system that suffers, including victims of tragedies and criminal acts,” Sage said during the dismissal hearing, according to CBS affiliate KEYE. “And in this case the family of a child who has died very tragically has been told for almost two decades that he passed in a way we now know is physically impossible given the science we know.”

Jimenez had a 1-year-old daughter and was seven months pregnant when she was first charged, her appeals attorney, Vanessa Potkin said. Jimenez gave birth to her son in jail while awaiting trial. 

“For the past 20 years, she has fought for this day, her freedom, and to be reunited with her children,” Potkin said. “Her wrongful conviction was not grounded in medical science, but faulty medical assumptions that turned a tragedy into a crime — with her own attorney doing virtually nothing to defend her.”

Jimenez was diagnosed with kidney disease 10 years after she was incarcerated. She began dialysis months after her release in 2021. She now needs a kidney transplant.

“Now that I am fully free and about to be a grandmother, I only want to be healthy so I can be part of my grandchild’s life and begin to rebuild my own life,” Jimenez wrote on the National Kidney Registry website.