Nearly a year to the date after the start of her capital murder trial, the longest in Hidalgo County history at six weeks, attorneys for Monica Melissa Patterson have filed their appeal challenging last year’s conviction.
Attorneys Brandy Wingate Voss and Dayna Jones filed the appellate brief, which is more than 100 pages long, with the 13th Court of Appeals on Sept. 14 after the two were granted multiple extensions after filing their notice of appeal back in January.
In addition to capital murder, a jury convicted Patterson, 51, of aggregated theft of a nonprofit, misapplication of a fiduciary property and attempted theft of Martin Knell Sr.’s estate.
The prosecution argued that Patterson murdered 96-year-old Knell in order to gain access to his estate. At the time of his January 2015 murder, Patterson was executive director of Comfort House, a nonprofit hospice in McAllen, and is convicted of stealing approximately $200,000 from the organization during her tenure.
Patterson began serving her life sentence late last year and is being held in the Christina Melton Crain Unit, a state women’s prison in Gatesville.
Through her attorneys, Patterson is requesting the appeals court hear oral arguments in her case as it raises questions of first impression — questions of legal interpretation not addressed in previous cases. The court has yet to grant this request.
“The state bombarded the jury with unending testimony on tangential matters for six long, exhaustive weeks, while failing to offer evidence of the required elements of its charge,” the brief reads.
It raises multiple issues, among them that state District Court Judge Noe González failed to give the jury proper instructions regarding the law of parties and accomplice-witness rule and erred by allowing a forensic examiner’s testimony and staged conversations between Patterson and the only witness to be shown to jurors as evidence.
Like the arguments made by Patterson’s attorneys during the trial, Wingate Voss and Jones argue that Patterson was not responsible for Knell’s death, but rather he was suffocated by Mario Angel Garza, who she tasked to perform odd jobs at Comfort House. Garza pleaded guilty to murder in January and was sentenced to 45 years in prison.
They also question the testimony of Celestina Mascorro, Knell’s live-in caregiver and sole witness to the crime, and charge the prosecution with failing to corroborate Mascorro’s account with other testimony. They also argue that Mascorro was an accomplice as she failed to seek immediate medical attention for Knell after the suffocation.
The brief asks that the appellate court acquit Patterson of the four charges or order that she be given a new trial.
“Fortunately, in contrast to the jury, this court’s review of the case does not require six weeks of (likely unpaid) time away from work,” the brief reads. “Upon an objective examination of the facts and the law, this court will find that all four judgments of conviction are fatally flawed and require reversal.”