Updated at 4 p.m.: Revised to reflect statements from attorneys involved in the case.
The state’s highest criminal court agreed to review the murder conviction of Roy Oliver, a former Balch Springs police officer who fatally shot a Black teenager while on-duty in 2017.
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals announced Wednesday that it will examine the case but will not hear oral arguments in the murder of 15-year-old Jordan Edwards.
Oliver, 41, was convicted of murder in 2018 and sentenced to 15 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.
Jordan was leaving a party the night of April 29, 2017, with his two brothers and two friends when Oliver, who is white, shot into the car as it was driving away. Gunshots had been fired nearby by people unaffiliated with the party, and the other teens in the car have said they were driving away because they were afraid.
Oliver testified that he thought the car was going to hit his partner, who had responded with him to a complaint about a loud party.
During the trial, Oliver’s partner, Tyler Gross, testified he didn’t fear that he was going to be run over by the car during the incident.
Mike Snipes, a former Dallas County prosecutor who won the murder conviction against Oliver, said he’s not surprised to see the case move so far in the appeals process because of its significance.
“We feel very confident about what we did procedurally and at trial during that case, and so I welcome the review,” Snipes said. “I just think at the end of the day, the conviction will be upheld.”
Robert Gill, Oliver’s attorney, said the appeal is largely related to Garrity v. New Jersey, a 1967 Supreme Court decision that says law enforcement officers and other public employees have Fifth Amendment protections when they give a statement about an incident, meaning the statement can’t be used against them in criminal proceedings.
Oliver’s lawyers argue that some information that Oliver gave in initial statements after he shot Jordan should have been withheld.
”There isn’t very much Texas law on the issue surrounding the Garrity case and an individual’s Fifth Amendment rights ... so we’re glad to see the court wants to review that,” Gill said.
Lee Merritt, an attorney who represents Jordan’s family, said the same issue that came up early on in the trial.
“We actually don’t have any issue with the review. We don’t believe that — particularly on that very narrow issue — we don’t believe that it will be significant enough to overturn the results of the case,” he said.
Merritt said Jordan’s family continues to mourn his death and that their civil lawsuit is still active.
Oliver appealed his case to the 5th Court of Appeals in Dallas, which ruled last August to uphold the conviction.
Oliver’s lawyers argued that a jury would have agreed that Oliver was acting to protect his partner had they received different instructions before deliberating.
There is no timeline for the Court of Criminal Appeals to make a decision.
Oliver is currently serving his 15-year sentence at the W. F. Ramsey prison in Rosharon, Texas.
Staff writer Dana Branham contributed to this report.