Tejano star Joe Lopez may appeal conviction - The Monitor: News

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Tejano star Joe Lopez may appeal conviction

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Posted: Tuesday, January 15, 2013 4:04 pm

BROWNSVILLE -- An attorney representing jailed Tejano superstar Joe Lopez has filed a lawsuit against the Cameron County District Attorney’s Office in an attempt to get DNA and other evidence from the old case against him.

Houston appeals attorney Tim Hootman filed the writ of mandamus Friday, seeking not only the release of DNA from the case but other evidence used to convict Lopez, including photographs, DNA testing that was performed, the DNA testers and background information on them.

“All I am trying to do is get the DNA so we can have an independent DNA specialist analyze it to figure out if the DNA that was presented previously is reliable,” Hootman said. “Once we get that, then we may or may not pursue an appeal.”

Lopez whose formal name is Jose Manuel, is the former leader of Brownsville-based Grupo Mazz. He was convicted in 2006 on two counts of sexual assault of a child and one count of indecency of a child.

A jury found him guilty of having sexual relations with a 13-year-old relative at his condo in 2004.

Lopez was sentenced to 32 years in prison, but because he is serving the sentences concurrently rather than consecutively, his punishment amounts to 20 years.

The Tejano star and his family maintain his innocence.

Hootman said he should be able review the case file and evidence without having to file the writ of mandamus, which is basically an order requesting the district attorney’s office to release the information. Hootman said he is baffled that the DA’s office has refused to provide the information.

“Just basic fairness would tell anybody with half of a heart that everyone should take a thorough look at the DNA that was used to put someone in prison and that didn’t happen in this case, so they’ve hired me to try and do that,” Hootman said.

The Houston lawyer has been seeking the information since Nov. 26, court records reflect. He began by filing an open records request with the DA’s office, which at the time was headed by District Attorney Armando R. Villalobos, who prosecuted the Lopez case himself.

The office, now under the direction of District Attorney Luis Saenz, declined to comment until state attorneys can thoroughly review the case, spokeswoman Melissa Zamora said.

Lopez, 62, co-founded Grupo Mazz in the 1970s and became the group’s lead vocalist, producing several hits and albums. He and co-founder Jimmy Gonzalez split in 1998 and formed separate bands, but each managed to keep the name Mazz in some fashion.

A forensic scientist in the 2006 case testified that DNA found on the girl’s shorts belonged to the Tejano singer.

The defense said the girl made up the allegations because she wanted to return to Baytown with her mother. The girl had been staying with Lopez and his wife at their Rancho Viejo condo.

Lopez tried to appeal the jury’s decision before the 13th Court of Appeals of Texas and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals. Both courts upheld his conviction.

The Tejano singer remains jailed at the W.F. Ramsey Unit in Rosharon, Texas. He is eligible for parole in October 2016.

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