George Powell gets new trial, conviction vacated by appeals court

BELTON, Texas (KWTX) The Criminal Court of Appeals vacated the conviction of George Powell III on Wednesday and granted him a new trial.

The court said in its ruling that “the State failed timely disclose impeachment information regarding the jailhouse informant, Demetric Smith. In addition, the trial court find that the State told Smith that his testimony in this case would be taken into consideration in disposition on his own pending charges, a fact that was not disclosed to the defense.”

In granting relief the court continued, “The trial court finds that Smith’s testimony at trial that he had not made any kind of deal in exchange for his testimony only because he wanted to do ‘the right thing’ was false, and the State failed to correct such testimony.”

The court did not make a decision on Powell’s claim that he is innocent. The Innocence Project of Texas is expected to file a Motion for Reconsideration of the actual innocence claims within the next 15 days.

In 2009, Powell was convicted of an armed robbery at the 7-Eleven. His case has also received attention from the Texas Forensic Science Commission.

Despite his pleas of innocence, his conviction was affirmed by the Third Court of Appeals in 2011.

Powell, who was serving a 28-year sentence has maintained his innocence.

Powell told KWTX that he was at a car lot when police officers arrested him.

The aspiring musician says he often sold CD’s. He maintains the person responsible for the robbery is much shorter than he is.

Those discrepancies and a jailhouse informant saying Powell admitted to the crime -- only to later recant -- are issues highlighted by the Innocence Project.

“Person that robbed this store is between heights of 5'6" and 5'8". Somebody out there know who robbed these stores and they need to come forward,” Powell said.

In 2016, the Texas Forensic Science Commission took a look at the case and found faults with the state expert’s opinion, specifically on the height of the man shown in a store surveillance video of the holdup.

The same year, the former cellmate who testified that Powell had confessed to the robbery recanted his testimony.

The Texas Innocence Project took up Powell’s case and on Sept. 18, 2017, the first in a series of evidentiary hearings was held before Gauntt.

The hearings ended on January 30, 2018.

Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza released the following statement:

"We have been in a posture of awaiting the decision by the Court of Criminal Appeals concerning George Powell. That decision has been rendered today and in accordance with the decision the case against him has been remanded today for a new trial. Accordingly, George Powell will be returned to Bell County and we will proceed to try the case again."