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Death row inmate Areli Escobar, who was convicted in the stabbing death and sexual assault of 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado in 2009. (Photo: Courtesy of the Texas Department of Criminal Justice)

The state’s highest criminal court on Wednesday ordered a closer examination of death row inmate Areli Escobar’s claims that shoddy work by the Austin police crime lab compromised evidence in his case.

A Travis County jury sentenced Escobar, 38, to death in the 2009 sexual assault and stabbing of his neighbor, 17-year-old Bianca Maldonado, an LBJ High School student who was attacked at her East Austin apartment with her 1-year-old son, who survived, nearby.

In a brief order issued Wednesday, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals directed state District Judge David Wahlberg to examine claims that the crime lab produced false or misleading conclusions from DNA evidence in the case, particularly on tests performed on the shirt, jeans and shoes that tied Escobar to the murder.

Escobar’s lawyers also argued that problems discovered at the crime lab — including poorly trained analysts, reports of cross-contamination of samples and questionable analytical methods — tainted the DNA results used to convict Escobar of capital murder.

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