As Bernie Tiede's Austin-based defense attorney continues to prepare a final application for Writ of Habeas Corpus based on new evidence that reportedly proves Tiede's childhood of sexual abuse, questions remain about the process Tiede is about to undergo.
Essentially, a Writ of Habeas Corpus is what you turn to after you've exhausted traditional appeals and still believe you might be in prison unconstitutionally.
"And rarely it can be if there's newly discovered evidence that potentially could exonerate the defendant," Tyler defense attorney Jeff Haas said.
Haas has no connection to--and no stake in--the defense or the prosecution of Tiede's case. However, he has quite a bit of experience handling cases involving Writs of Habeas Corpus.
"It appears as if it's not really new evidence," he said. "It's just evidence that was not disclosed by the defendant to his trial council."
Haas said there's no jury involved. The goal is to convince a judge something in the case has changed.
"In an appeal, courts look at what happened during the trial," Haas said. "In Writs of Habeas Corpus, ordinarily, they look potentially at what should have happened during the trial but didn't."
The bottom line, Haas said, is that the burden of proof is huge and Tiede's reported sexual abuse is no slam dunk. Haas compared it with rape cases where the supposed victim later admits the story was a lie.
"Even in those situations courts have been reluctant to grant relief," Haas said.
With his other appeal options already gone, Tiede has nothing to lose in the long run.
Visiting Judge Diane DeVasto is handling the case. If she's convinced, the next step is to pass the case up to the court of criminal appeals.
DeVasto expects to take the matter up again in March.