Retrial of man accused of strangling woman to go forward

Crispin Harmel at trial (KXAN Photo)
Crispin Harmel at trial (KXAN Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Court of Appeals Third District in Austin decided Tuesday that a re-trial of Crispin Harmel will go ahead.

Harmel is accused of strangling 27-year-old Jessika Kalaher in September 2009. Prosecutors said Kalaher was found dead in her car across the street from Walmart in Cedar Park, where she had stopped to buy dog food.

The defense argued that the state’s attempt at re-trial amounted to double jeopardy, which protects criminal defendants from being prosecuted for the same offense repeatedly.

In April 2014, Harmel went on trial on charges of capital murder, aggravated kidnapping and aggravated robbery. Several days into the trial, court documents say, the case was declared a mistrial after the state wasn’t able to provide the defense counsel time stamps on a Walmart surveillance tape.

The timing was so important because the defense’s case was based primarily on the argument that Harmel could not have been with the victim at the time of the offenses.

The state initially told Harmel and his attorney that a time-stamped version of the video did not exist. During the trial, however, the prosecutor learned the problem could be solved by using a different video player.

District Attorney Jana Duty testified that “after the way [she] was treated throughout the entire trial, [she] didn’t really feel very magnanimous,” court documents state. As a result, the simple fix for the time stamp issue was not shared with the defense. A judge determined she intentionally withheld evidence.

In August 2015, Duty was sentenced to 10 days in jail after violating a gag order on the case after sending an email to a local newspaper reporter. She was held in contempt of court when she did not attend a hearing to discuss the possible violation.

We left messages with both of Harmel’s attorneys, but have not heard back.

Watch KXAN’s report from May 2013 on Harmel’s capital murder indictment: provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Users who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

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