Press Release

Kirstin Lobato Exonerated Today After Wrongly Serving Nearly 16 Years

By Innocence Staff

Kirstin Lobato released on Jan. 3, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Photo: Justin McAffee/Innocence Project.

(Las Vegas— December 29, 2017) Today, upon motion by the Clark County District Attorney’s Office, Clark County District Court’s Honorable Chief Judge Elizabeth Gonzalez dismissed all charges against Kirstin Blaise Lobato and ordered her to be released from prison.  On December 19, 2017, Clark County District Court Judge Stefany Miley had reversed Lobato’s murder conviction. After a five-day hearing in October, the court had found that Lobato’s defense lawyers violated her constitutional right to effective legal representation by failing to call pathology and entomology experts regarding the victim’s time of death, which would have supported her strong alibi. Lobato has served nearly sixteen years in prison despite compelling evidence of her innocence.

Related: Support Kirstin’s liberty fund

“Ms. Lobato has spent all of her young adulthood wrongfully incarcerated for a crime she did not commit … we hope Ms. Lobato will be released soon.” Vanessa Potkin

“Despite the strong evidence that Ms. Lobato played no role in this crime, including alibi evidence that she was three hours away from Las Vegas on the day the victim was killed, the police focused exclusively and inexplicably on her as a suspect,” said Vanessa Potkin, Post-Conviction Litigation Director for the Innocence Project, which is affiliated with Cardozo School of Law. “As a result, Ms. Lobato has spent all of her young adulthood wrongfully incarcerated for a crime she did not commit.  We are grateful that the prosecutor’s office moved expeditiously to dismiss her charges after the vacatur decision, and we hope Ms. Lobato will be released soon.”

Lobato was just 18 years old when she was charged with the brutal 2001 murder of Duran Bailey, a homeless man in Las Vegas. Lobato, who was tried twice for the crime, has always maintained her innocence. Bailey’s body had been found at around 10 p.m. on July 8, 2001 next to a dumpster in the parking lot of a bank building. He had been brutalized: his eyes were swollen shut; his skull cracked; several of his teeth had been knocked out of his mouth; his carotid artery was cut; and his penis had been removed.

Lobato grew up in Panaca, Nevada, a small town three hours north of Las Vegas.  In late May 2001, two months before Bailey was killed, Lobato was visiting friends in Las Vegas when she was attacked in a motel parking lot by a man who attempted to rape her.  Carrying a small knife given to her by her father for her protection, Lobato slashed at the man’s groin area and escaped his grasp.  When she drove off, she saw the man on the ground, mobile and apparently crying.  In the coming days and weeks, Lobato described this attack to numerous people, making clear that it occurred before July 2001 and stating that she believed she may have cut the man in the groin area before running off to safety.

On July 20, 2001, nearly two weeks after Bailey’s murder, Las Vegas Metro Police Department detectives received a phone call from a Panaca resident who had heard from another Panaca resident that Lobato had told her that she had cut off a man’s penis in Las Vegas.  Based on that attenuated story alone, detectives immediately drove the three hours to Panaca from Las Vegas.  Upon arriving at Lobato’s family home, the detectives told Lobato that they knew she had recently been attacked.  The police recorded a statement in which Lobato described the attempted rape in late May, stating that it had happened “at least a month ago,” clearly describing a motel parking lot as the location and not a dumpster, and describing a man who was mobile and alive when she left and not beaten to death, as was Bailey.  Under the mistaken belief that police were informing her that the man who tried to rape her had died, she expressed remorse, and made other comments that the detective took as a confession for Bailey’s murder, even though the event Lobato described was glaringly at odds with the basic facts of his killing.

Armed only with this statement, the detectives arrested Lobato for Bailey’s murder. The police did not investigate clear alternate perpetrators with the motive and means to so violently kill Bailey.  On July 1, 2001, one week before he was found dead, Bailey assaulted and raped a woman who lived in an apartment building next to the bank where his body would be found.  Bailey threatened to kill the woman if she told anyone, but she eventually reported the attack to the police on July 5, 2001, just three days before Bailey was killed.  She also told a number of her male neighbors who had an ongoing dispute with Bailey about the attack.  Despite the woman’s prior contact with the victim, as well as her male friends’ motive to retaliate against Bailey, the police prematurely dismissed these potential suspects.

Instead, the police focused solely on Lobato, a teenager with no connection to Bailey and no motive to harm him.  At trial, the prosecution relied primarily on Lobato’s statement to the detectives, which they characterized as a confession, as there was no physical or forensic evidence linking Lobato to this crime.  The defense presented numerous family members and neighbors who testified that Lobato was actually in Panaca on July 8, 2001. The prosecution even conceded in summation that Lobato was in Panaca as of 11:30 a.m. on July 8th. However, the prosecution relied heavily on their medical examiner’s time of death estimation to undermine Lobato’s alibi defense: the medical examiner estimated that Bailey died up to 24 hours before he was pronounced dead at 3:50 a.m. on July 9th, meaning at approximately 4 a.m. on July 8th. The State argued that this put Bailey’s death at a time when Lobato was not accounted for by her alibi witnesses, and the jury convicted her.

At the October 2017 hearing, Lobato presented the testimony of three forensic entomologists, or insect scientists, all of whom concluded that based on the weather conditions in Las Vegas on July 8, 2001 and based on the outdoor location where Bailey’s body was found, one would expect to see his body teeming with blowfly eggs within a short period of time after his death.  Blowflies arrive very shortly after death and lay hundreds of easily observable eggs in a freshly dead body’s orifices and wounds.  Given that Bailey’s body had no blowfly eggs on it, each of the forensic entomologists independently concluded that he had to have died close in time to when his body was discovered around 10 p.m. on July 8th, during which time, as conceded even by the prosecution, Lobato was three hours away with her family in Panaca.  A forensic pathologist also independently concluded that based on the recorded rigor mortis changes in Bailey’s body between the time when his body was discovered and when his autopsy was conducted, he likely died during the early evening hours of July 8th.  Based on this compelling scientific evidence which could have been presented at Lobato’s trial and which would have likely changed the jury’s outcome, Judge Miley granted Lobato’s habeas corpus petition and vacated her convictions.

“We are grateful that the court recognized that Ms. Lobato’s defense counsel was ineffective for failing to present scientific evidence showing that the victim died close in time to when his body was found, at a time when Ms. Lobato was hours away from the crime scene.” Adnan Sultan

“We are grateful that the court recognized that Ms. Lobato’s defense counsel was ineffective for failing to present scientific evidence showing that the victim died close in time to when his body was found, at a time when Ms. Lobato was hours away from the crime scene,” said Adnan Sultan, Staff Attorney at the Innocence Project.  “After sixteen years of wrongful conviction, Ms. Lobato’s name is finally cleared and she can begin to build her life as a free woman,” said Jane Pucher, Staff Attorney at the Innocence Project.

Lobato was represented by Barry Scheck, Vanessa Potkin, Adnan Sultan, and Jane Pucher of the Innocence Project as well as by local counsel David Chesnoff and Robert Demarco of Chesnoff & Schonfeld.

Related: Support Kirstin’s liberty fund

19 Comments

  1. ANGELIA Lovato

    Thats awesome! I wish you could review my Son’s case because he is innocent and there is no true evidence against him just hear say? he recently had to plea to a 16 year sentence in 2016 colorado for a 2009 case he’s currently at Bent county correctional facility #172890. I have all tapes and discoveries anyone can read and know right off of all the mistakes they have no DNA or weopon??

  2. Kristine Penrod

    Once again, tunnel vision by the cops.

  3. Kathi Scully

    Congratulations, in the name of justice and mercy

    • Timothy Kendall

      Justice, yes. A thousand times yes, except for the “small matter” of 16 years in prison for a crime she didn’t commit. But the concept of “mercy” toward an innocent person wrongfully convicted is a bit more than my meager mind can assemble.

      If “justice” is to be carried to completion, Ms. Lobato is owed some serious “compensation” (quote-marks because of course, she can’t ever be “compensated” for 16 lost years). I’d recommend $32,000,000 as a figure at which to start negotiations.

  4. Rene Pineda

    Another case of piss poor investigations by police. This added insult to injury. The poor girl was almost raped by a rapist and for lack of evidence and for ignoring the facts an innocent person was sent to prison. A bloody nightmare! Money from a law suit will never make up for the miserable 16 years taken away from this young innocent woman. – Mr. René Pineda

  5. Victim of Legal Abuse Syndrome Ex Nevada resident

    I hope you are going after them for compensating her for the time she was in prison. Please sue them. Also nice job lawyers, too bad your fellow family court lawyers don’t have any morals.

  6. Amy Harrison

    ‘Tis makes me smile. I’m so glad that she is free. I had heard about this and always wondered how the times never matched up but she was still convicted

  7. Steve Sanson

    We would like to interview Ms. Laboto on the Veterans In Politics video internet talk show. We have been on the airwaves for 13 years. Please let me know.

    In addition, I tried to visit her in prison, but was turned down.

    Thank you

  8. M B

    I am speechless. Our judicial system needs alot of work. And the attorneys no longer have the compassion and want to truly work a case a defend their client. So many children loose their lives as children due to ineffective counsel. I sincerely hope this young lady and her family can find a way to move past what they lost. I am so glad the innocence project was part of this.

  9. Carman Galbrecht

    During a research paper in 2008 I was very intrigued by this story. I am so happy that she has finally been found innocent.

  10. Mike Habib

    The US justice system is a game, its no longer finding the truth its results driven where the prosecution and police want to meet targets.

    Australia is following in the same foot steps. Except the jury seems more educated and have seen a lot of police busted over their corrupt history.

  11. Kathryn Steffens

    Bravo! So sad that we have to celebrate something that should never have been allowed to happen. Not only did she loose those years, family and friends suffer greatly…..the riplle effect of these atrocities are hidden but very real and painful! My son was wrongfully convicted in 2006 and because we are not wealthy, he will be persecuted for this the rest of his life. Might as well have been a death sentence for him as well as our entire family. The devastation is unbearable some days. Very happy for this family!

  12. George Barwood

    Thank goodness Kirstin is at last exonerated, but why did it take 16 years when her innocence could easily have been established right at the start of the investigation?

  13. David Shockey

    This proves once again that you should never ever talk to police about anything you don’t have to talk about without an attorney present. They tell you what they are going to do with what you say, “ANYTHING you say can and WILL be used against you.” If this young lady had followed that advice she would probably not even have been tried.

  14. Elaine Sawdye

    Congratulations to Ms. Lobato and the late gal team from The Innocence Project.This event starts at the beginning of a New Year and a New Life! The work that TIP does, is full of honor and integrity, and upholds Americans’ Constitutional Rights who have been wronged by our Justice System. Thank the Lord there are peopl like you out there.

  15. K Brady

    I am so happy for her!! Great work for the entire team.

    I wonder how all those who railroaded her went to sleep every night, shopping, eating normal food, having privacy and dignity, with peace in their hearts. I have never understood that.

    For those who have tunnel vision because they have pressure to solve a case, ignore the reality; They have not only taken away someone’s life through incarceration, they have allowed the real culprit to have freedom and escape punishment. This is not only unfair for the wrongfully convicted, but the victim and their families don’t have justice. They should be truly ashamed.

    I wish Kristin all the best in her new life and that she lets the anger go, so she can now be really free. Happy New Year to her!

  16. Alesia Wallace

    MY SON CEDRIC DEVON EVANS WAS ARRESTED AT HIS JOB ON JANUARY 28, 2012, WE BONDED HIM OUT ON FEBRUARY 13, 2012, HE WAS SENTENCED ON FEBRUARY 25, 2014 AND HANDCUFFED AND TAKEN TO PRISON, MY SON WAS UNDER THE INFLUENCE OF ALCOHOL AND WAS INTERROGATED BY THE JACKSON MS POLICE OFFICERS AND NO IMVESTIGATION WAS DONE ON THE SEXUAL BATTERY CASE THEY HAD AGAINST HIM, NO DNA, NO BLOOD SAMPLES, ETC.

  17. Franklin Uso

    It is amazing that so many people who have never worked in law enforcement have become self proclaimed experts in the field. Unless you have worked in law enforcement or prosecuted cases then you have no idea what it is really like. Too many people believe that what they see on television scores are legit but too often they are not. Critics of our legal system love it when someone recants their testimony arguing that such proves the innocence of a convicted person. Why is this? Why not believe the recanting person told the truth the first time? Critics refuse to consider that. And if DNA is not handled properly attorneys will argue it should not be admissable yet they have no problem with it’s handling if they want it to free a prisoner. What hipocrites. It is easy to play Monday morning quarterback and complain about the system especially if you have never done the work yourself. Sure, innocent people do someone’s get convicted but the over whelming majority of inmates are in fact legally guilty despite what they claim. I take these reversals of convictions with a grain of salt because too many of them are indeed guilty yet have conned (no pun intended) people into believing otherwise. My sympathy is with victims of crime, not with perpetrators.

  18. Brandi M

    So happy to hear she’s out of prison. I watched her snapped episode and was convinced she was innocent. So sad she wasted a big part of her youth behind bars for nothing.

    Duran was probably killed by someone he raped. Cutting off a penis is equivalent to disarming someone who means to hurt you. He raped another woman and threatened to kill her if she told. He was a lowlife scumbag rapist who I don’t have an ounce of sympathy for and no one should serve time for doing the world a favor.

    Kirstin however, should be the face for shoddy investigator work, she deserves a personal apology from everyone who worked to convict her, and she should receive compensation for the rest of her life.

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