How often have I said to you that when you have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth?
Sherlock Holmes, The Sign of the Four
His name is Larry Swearingen, and whatever he did or might have done, he did not murder Melissa Trotter. Oh, she was murdered. And there's a wealth of circumstantial evidence that led the cops to arrest and the DA to prosecute and the jury to convict Swearingen of Trotter's kidnap, rape, and murder. And the law allowed it and it was Texas so there's no surprise, really, that in the summer of 2000, after the trial, Swearingen was sentenced to be killed.
He appealed, of course. And argued. And made his claims. And there he was, near the end. August 18 is when they planned to kill him. Until someone said to hang on. Because, see, whatever Larry Swearingen did or might have done, he did not murder Melissa Trotter. Really, it's not even a debatable point, though the state of Texas continues to debate it.
Here's the thing. Years after the trial, in 2007 and then in 2009, experts (even the coroner actually looked at evidence from Melissa Trotter's body to figure out when she was killed. Huh? Don't they always do that? Apparently not.
Here's the thing. Trotter disappeared on December 8, 1998. She and Swearingen, who knew her and had a relationship with her, were seen together that day. She was never seen alive again. He was arrested on traffic warrants three days later and has been in custody ever since. Her body was found in January. And there was all that circumstantial evidence (and there was plenty).
But when the scientists actually looked at the physical evidence of the body, well, ooops. Seems she wasn't killed until after he was in custody. Couldn't have been. So say some 10 separate scientists based on several different sorts of analysis.
Let's be clear. If she wasn't killed until after he was in custody, then he couldn't have done it. Not possible. But all that circumstantial evidence. My god. Of course he did it.
Except he couldn't have.
Swearingen's been trying to get the courts to look at this, to recognize that if it was impossible for him to have killed her, then he didn't. The courts weren't biting.
Prosecutors in Montgomery County do not buy the setup theory, and the courts have rejected repeated pleas from Mr. Swearingen’s lawyers to review the scientific evidence. Brandi Grissom, for the Texas Tribune explains.
In a November 2009 court ruling, Melinda Harmon, a judge in the United States District Court, wrote that Mr. Swearingen should have discovered and presented the forensic evidence years earlier. But she did not only deny his plea based on procedure; Ms. Harmon wrote that the scientists’ reports were not credible because they each reviewed different kinds of evidence. Some looked at microscopic tissue samples, some examined photos and video, and others looked at bugs. “This is not a case where Mr. Swearingen’s evidence is so compelling that a court cannot have confidence in the outcome of his trial,” she wrote.
OK, what Judge Harmon said was a little more nuanced than Grissom makes it sound, but that's the general point. The experts didn't agree on all the details, and there's still some stuff that's troubling.
So there sat Larry Swearingen. On death row. To be executed August 18. For a crime that, whatever he did or might have done, he did not commit.
Look, we know Keller's view, that finality is more important that innocence.
We know that Trotter's family wants Swearingen killed.
We know that the courts have never been convinced and the prosecutors aren't even close.
And yet, and over dissents (including by Keller and her opponent in the next election), the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the killing and sent the case back to the trial court.
[T]o review and resolve the claims raised.
Hard to know exactly what that review will entail. But Swearingen gets to present his evidence. Which is no small thing.
Since whatever Larry Swearingen did or might have done, he did not murder Melissa Trotter.
Edwards can set Swearingen execution date Posted: Wednesday, December 12, 2012 11:01 pm | Updated: 8:50 am, Thu Dec 13, 2012. By Nancy Flake Almost exactly 14 years after her daughter’s murder, Sandy ... more
Execution date for Swearingen set for Feb. 27 Posted: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 8:53 pm | Updated: 9:07 am, Thu Dec 20, 2012. By Howard Roden Now that 9th state District Court Judge Fred Edwards has ... more
EXECUTION DATE LIFTED January 30, 2013 Judge Case moments ago has recalled the execution warrant on Larry Ray Swearingen. This after a hearing Wednesday afternoon in which the defense was seeking DNA ... more
Swearingen Seeks DNA Testing Execution scheduled for late February BY JORDAN SMITH, 7:42AM, FRI. JAN. 18 A motion filed yesterday in Montgomery County seeks DNA testing on several items of evidence... more
Less than three months before 18-year-old Melissa Trotter disappeared, another ex-fiancée complained to police that Swearingen had assaulted and raped her. According to court documents, Swearingen... more
Prosecutors, Defense Lawyers Argue Over DNA Testing • by Brandi Grissom • January 25, 2013 Update, Friday, Jan. 25, 2013: A week after condemned inmate Larry Swearingen, who is set to be executed... more
Is Rick Perry Ready to Execute an Innocent Man? Jordan Smith August 30, 2011 As soon as Rick Perry threw his hat into the 2012 electoral ring, anti–death penalty critics brought up his staggering... more
Swearingen back to court Feb. 27 Posted: Sunday, January 8, 2012 By Howard Roden Attorneys involved in the Feb. 27 hearing of convicted killer Larry Ray Swearingen will meet Monday morning to discuss ... more
Dissecting the Science of Death 1998 murder case will get a scientific examination BY JORDAN SMITH, FRI., FEB. 24, 2012 The question of whether the science of death and decomposition can prove that... more
Burden of proof Andrew Purcell March 4, 2012 - 2:00AM IN HIS 12 years on death row, Larry Swearingen's execution date has been set three times. Three times he has known when he will be strapped to a... more
Death-row innocents trapped in a living hell 04 Mar, 2012 03:00 AM In his 12 years on death row, Larry Swearingen's execution date has been set three times. Three times he has known when he would be... more
http://www.dw.de/justice-is-debatable-in-texas-death-penalty-case/a-16365696 12.11.2012 | Deutsche Welle Justice is debatable in Texas death penalty case Andrew Purcell | Reporting from Montgomery... more
Simply yes, because he couldnot proven guilty! Is Larry Swearingen Innocent? Nine forensic experts say Swearingen is on death row for a murder he couldn’t have committed, yet Texas courts won’t grant ... more
Defense expert testifies about forensics, more Swearingen hearing continues Posted: Thursday, March 1, 2012 By Howard Roden Dr. Lloyd White resumed testifying Wednesday in the hearing of convicted... more
August 15, 2012 | Texas Tribune Judge Signals Intent to Rule Against Condemned Inmate by Brandi Grissom A judge in Montgomery County plans to recommend that the state move forward with the execution... more
Judge: Swearingen didn’t establish innocence Posted: Tuesday, Updated: 6:47 am, Wed Oct 10, 2012. By Howard Roden Ninth state District Court Judge Fred Edwards ruled last week that convicted killer... more
Prosecution: Science can’t save Swearingen Swearingen’s Claim Larry Ray Swearingen, 40, was sentenced in 2000 to die by lethal injection for the murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter of Willis. Since ... more
Condemned killer Swearingen back in court By Renée C. Lee Monday, February 27, 2012 CONROE - After receiving his third stay of execution last year, condemned killer Larry Swearingen is back in court... more
http://www.austinchronicle.com/documents/TCCA%20order%20July%2028%202011.pdf Execution Stayed The Court of Criminal Appeals today stayed the execution of Larry Swearingen, sending the case back to... more
I don't know how may times I have found dead cows during the winter months that had been dead for up to 5 weeks and they were no where near skeletonization, in some cases they were very blooted but... more
Swearingen, an ex-con who was working as an electrician, had met Trotter on December 6 and asked her out on a date. She stood him up the next day, but on December 8 they rendezvoused on campus. That... more
What evidence?how do you explain away the evidence that the trained pathologist and others have proved? 1 time boby was out in open 2 fibers being similar but not a match? 3 the fact he was in prison ... more
I agree with that, Kitten. SOME...but Petra seems to just think they are all innocent. I know she must know better than that. Now, I can completely understand not wanting them executed, but just... more
I have never ever heard Petra say that all on death row are innocent she has pointed out several facts in some cases that shows there maybe a chance of innocence in some cases and she is right but... more
WELCOME BACK!!! : ) So glad to know you are safe & sound! Hope you are feeling completely better, and if you're not 100% yet, hope & pray you are soon...and VERY soon! Take care of yourself & don't... more