"48 Hours Mystery:" In Too Deep
Laura Hall 48 Hours Mystery: In Too Deep (CBS)
In February 2009, in a surprising twist, Laura Hall is released from jail because a court ruled her sentencing hearing wasn't fair. She's out on bond while prosecutors fight to put her back in jail.
It was an appeals court in Austin set Laura loose. It upheld her conviction, but threw out her five-year sentence. She will get a new sentencing hearing. It all has to do with the testimony of a taxi driver in Laura's original sentencing hearing, who swore Laura was a passenger in his cab.
"And in making the small talk people do, he found out her boyfriend was accused of murder," Laura Hall's lawyer, Joe James Sawyer explains. "And he inquired, 'Oh, who is he accused of killing, Miss?' The answer in the presence of that jury, quote, 'Some bitch.' End quote. 'Some bitch.' I watched my jury and I saw women and men flinch at that answer."
Sawyer knew the cabbie's description of such callous and cold behavior was deadly. "And then they ask him, 'Can you identify that woman in court today?' 'Why yes,' he said, 'She's sitting right there by Mr. Sawyer.' And that would be Laura Hall."
Asked if the cab driver is lying, Laura tells Maher, "I never said that to him. He's certainly mistaken, if not flat out lying, yes."
As it turns out, the cab driver actually failed to identify Laura when investigators showed him a photo lineup. And then, it got worse when the district attorney failed to tell Laura's attorney about that - which was a significant legal mistake.
Prosecutor Bill Bishop was held accountable. "Mistakes were made," he says. "But it certainly wasn't a pattern of misconduct or an attempt to railroad or conspire against Miss Hall, as Mr. Sawyer would have you believe."
Because of the DA's mistake, Laura will be sentenced again. She could get more time or be let go permanently.
All along, Laura would continue to fight a current of public rage that she believed was sweeping away her very life.
"I think my life has been destroyed," she says. "I think if people set out to kill me, done. ...I can't live in Austin. I can't live in Texas."
And it is about to get much worse. "We have new evidence that we've developed that establishes that Colton was not responsible even for the killing," Joe Turner tells Maher. Turner says he "never did" believe that Colton Pitonyak shot Jennifer Cave.
Colton's lawyer suggests Laura Hall murdered Jennifer Cave. Her motive: jealousy.
"It's impossible for me to have been jealous of Jennifer Cave because I not only didn't know her, but I didn't know she existed," Laura tells Maher. "I'm innocent of all this. This was Colton's mess."
But according to Pitonyak's lawyer, once in jail, during a group therapy session, Laura told other inmates she is in fact the killer.
"They stated that during the group that inmate Hall confessed to the murder of Jennifer Cave," Turner explains.
But Laura has a strong alibi: at the time of the murder, she said she was staying with a friend - a friend who backed up her story in court.
"The state itself says she didn't get there until in the morning. Do you think for one moment that if the state could plausibly have put her at the scene, it would not have done so?" Hall's attorney asks.
"Did you have anything to do with the dismemberment of Jennifer's body?" Maher asks Laura.
"Absolutely nothing to do with it," she replies.
"Did you have anything to do with the murder?"
"No! God, no."
But Jim and Sharon, Jennifer's parents, weren't surprised by these latest accusations, because Laura Hall had frightened them since the first minute they saw her.
"The thing that I am most fearful about is that she will choose my family to yet again hurt," Sharon says. "She's a psychopath. I mean, when you look at Laura, there is nothing there. At all. Nothing. There is no soul."
Two scenarios were in play now and both were nightmares for Jim and Sharon. Colton Pitonyak was fighting for a new trial and Laura Hall was now fighting to clear her name.
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