Pitonyak Seeks New Trial in Jennifer Cave Murder Case
Defense says new evidence proves Hall murdered Cave
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week ruled that Colton Pitonyak, serving a 55-year sentence for the gruesome 2005 murder of his friend Jennifer Cave, is not entitled to a new trial based on a claim that prosecutors withheld evidence suggesting that an accomplice, Laura Hall, was actually responsible for the crime. But Pitonyak's lawyers say they've now secured additional evidence that Hall confessed that it was she who murdered Cave.
The three-judge panel ruled that Hall's admission of guilt to a jail counselor was not illegally withheld from Pitonyak's defense, because the duty of prosecutors to disclose to a defendant all exculpatory, impeaching, or mitigating evidence – collectively known as "Brady material" – does not extend to a counselor, who is not responsible for investigating or prosecuting the case against Hall.
Pitonyak attorneys say they will appeal, to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary, because the Fifth Circuit panel's ruling creates an impermissible loophole to the state's ongoing obligation under Brady. But they also say they've secured additional evidence, in the form of a sworn statement from a former friend of Pitonyak and Hall, Jason Mack, who this summer wrote an affidavit saying Hall told him she was at Pitonyak's apartment the night Cave was murdered, and that she was the one who actually fired the fatal shot. "Laura ... stated that if that bitch would have just shut her mouth I never would have had to kill her," Mack wrote.
Pitonyak attorney Chris Perri says the new information will be included in another appeal to be filed soon in state district court. "How many times does Laura Hall have to confess to Jennifer Cave's murder before we get a new trial for Colton?" he asked.