Is It Possible to Hold a New Trial Based on a Newly Discovered Eyewitness ?

In People v. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d 319, 919 N.E.2d 941, 336 Ill. Dec. 16 (2009), the supreme court granted the defendant a new trial based on the testimony of a newly discovered additional eyewitness. The court held that the testimony was newly discovered where the witness did not admit to having witnessed the incident until more than 10 years after trial and made himself unavailable as a witness when he moved to a neighboring state shortly after the murder. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 325. The supreme court noted that the "sole basis" of the circuit court's decision denying the defendant's third postconviction petition alleging actual innocence was that the new eyewitness' testimony was cumulative of other evidence presented at the defendant's jury trial. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 325-26. Our supreme court held that this finding was manifestly erroneous where the new testimony conflicted with the State's main witnesses on the central issue of who beat and killed the victim. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 326. The court further held that the newly discovered additional eyewitness testimony was of such a conclusive character that it would probably change the result of a retrial where the testimony directly contradicted the recanted testimony of the two prosecution witnesses and the State was unable to discredit the additional eyewitnesses' testimony that he witnessed both the beating and the shooting and that the defendant was not present during either event. Ortiz, 235 Ill. 2d at 326.