The Innocence Project in New York has agreed to represent Kirstin Lobato pro bono for the district court proceedings ordered by the Nevada Supreme Court in its November 23, 2016 ruling on her habeas corpus petition appeal. Prominent Las Vegas attorney David Chesnoff has agreed to serve pro bono as Ms. Lobato’s local counsel. Chesnoff’s involvement enables the Innocence Project’s New York based lawyers to represent Ms. Lobato in Nevada.
Ms. Lobato’s habeas petition seeks to overturn her October 2006 convictions related to the homicide of homeless Duran Bailey in Las Vegas on July 8, 2001.
The Supreme Court remanded her case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing to determine if Clark County Special Public Defender David Schieck provided ineffective assistance of counsel during her trial. Schieck failed to investigate and present forensic evidence that Bailey died while Ms. Lobato was home in Panaca, 165 miles from Las Vegas. The Supreme Court ruled it is likely her jury wouldn’t have convicted her if it had known that exculpatory evidence.
The district court is also ordered to consider issues related to Ms. Lobato’s claims that new evidence proves she is actually innocent.
Attorney Robert DeMarco from Chesnoff’s office appeared in court for a hearing on January 4, 2017. DeMarco informed Judge Stefany Miley that Innocence Project attorneys will be filing pro hac vices with the Nevada Bar for permission to represent Ms. Lobato. Miley was told Innocence Project co-founder Barry Scheck is one of those lawyers.
“Oh f***” was heard by spectators as Clark County Assistant District Attorney Christopher J. Lalli’s response to learning Scheck will represent Ms. Lobato.
The Innocence Project is most well known for assisting in the exoneration of convicted persons based on new DNA evidence. The Innocence Project assisted in Ms. Lobato’s unsuccessful post-conviction petition for DNA testing of crime scene evidence in her case. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office vigorously opposed the DNA testing. Judge Valorie Vega denied the testing in 2011. The Supreme Court dismissed Ms. Lobato’s appeal in ruling Nevada’s DNA testing statute didn’t permit the appeal of Judge Vega’s ruling.
The next hearing in Ms. Lobato’s case is scheduled for February 22, 2017. A date for the evidentiary hearing is expected to be set during that hearing.
Author note: Hans Sherrer is President of the Justice Institute based in Seattle, Washington that conducted a post-conviction investigation of Ms. Lobato’s case. The Justice Institute’s website is, www.justicedenied.org.