Court sets deadline for recommendation on new trial for local man

George Powell III insists he's innocent and is hoping to win a new trial. (Staff photo/file)
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BELTON, Texas (KWTX) The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has set a deadline for a recommendation on whether a Central Texas man should be retried for an armed robbery he says he didn’t commit.

In an order filed on Wednesday, the court gave Bell County District Judge John Gauntt 120 days in which to recommend whether George Powell III deserves a new trial.

The final decision rests with the appeals court.

Powell was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2009 for an armed holdup in June 2008 at a 7-Eleven store in Killeen, a robbery he insists he did not commit.

The store’s clerk initially told police the robber was about 5-foot-6, despite the fact Powell is 6-foot-3.

His attorneys are asking Gauntt to recommend to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that Powell should receive a new trial or be freed, based on the height discrepancy and the recantation of the testimony of a jailhouse informant who testified that Powell admitted to the robbery.

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.

The Bell County District Attorney’s Office opposed the challenge, but has declined to comment on the ongoing case.