Appellate court inches closer on Patterson appeal

Appellate court justices are one step closer to ruling on an appeal for Monica Melissa Patterson, who was convicted in 2017 of murdering a 96-year-old man for his money, after prosecutors challenged her attorneys’ claims in a brief filed last week.

A Hidalgo County jury found Patterson guilty of capital murder in November 2017 for the January 2015 death of Martin Knell Sr., and she was automatically sentenced to life in prison without parole.

She was also convicted of the three other charges she faced — attempted theft of Knell’s estate, theft of a nonprofit and misapplication of a fiduciary property. The latter two were tied to her leadership of McAllen’s Comfort House hospice.

Patterson’s attorneys filed a notice of appeal with the 13th Court of Appeals in January 2018 after state District Judge Noe Gonzalez denied her request for a new trial. Last September, her attorneys filed their appellate brief detailing why Patterson, the daughter of former Hidalgo County Commissioner Hector “Tito” Palacios, should be acquitted of the charges or receive a new trial.

The Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office submitted its own brief on Feb. 8, arguing there is sufficient evidence to sustain her convictions and dispute Patterson’s claims that Gonzalez, the trial judge, made sufficient errors to warrant the reversal of the jury’s ruling.

These alleged errors, according to Patterson’s attorneys, include the judge failing to give the jury proper instructions regarding the testimony of Knell’s housekeeper, the only eye-witness to the crime apart from Patterson’s co-defendant, Mario Garza, who was not called to testify during the trial.

In addition to detailing the reasons why the judge did not err during the nearly six-week trial, the county’s longest in recent memory, the state’s brief refutes Patterson’s request that the 13th Court of Appeals hear oral arguments from the appellate attorneys before making a ruling.

Oral argument “would not serve to enlighten the court further or illuminate the issues in that, because the facts and legal arguments are adequately presented in the briefs and record,” the state’s brief reads, further adding the appellate justices’ “decisional process … would not be significantly aided by oral argument.”

Patterson’s attorneys could decide to submit a reply brief within 20 days of Feb. 8.

Her appeal has yet to be placed on the court’s calendar, at which point it will be assigned to a panel of three justices.

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