death penalty news—–TEXAS

Nov. 19


Judge grants additional forensic testing for mom convicted of killing kids

For the 2nd time in five months, convicted child killer Darlie Lynn
Routier has been granted the right to more forensic testing of evidence in
her effort to prove that an intruder killed her 2 sons in 1996.

This month, a federal judge granted additional testing of a bloody sock;
new forensic testing of a butcher knife presented in the original trial as
the murder weapon, as well as new testing of fibers from another knife;
and permission to run four fingerprints through a national database.

His decision, which was signed Nov. 5, piggybacks a state appeals court
decision in June to allow her defense team to test some pubic and facial

"To have two separate courts say, 'Yes, you have valid claims,' obviously
it's a big deal, especially for the fingerprints," said Stephen Cooper,
one of Mrs. Routier's attorneys. "Everyone has said no [to checking the
fingerprints]. We've been trying to get the fingerprints in the FBI
database for comparison for 10 years now."

Mrs. Routier, 38, was sentenced to death for the stabbing death of her
5-year-old son, Damon. She also was charged with killing his older
brother, Devon, who was 6, but she was not tried in that case. She has
long contended that an unidentified intruder killed her boys and then
stabbed her in the June 6, 1996, attack in Rowlett.

Dallas County First Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore said
prosecutors are confident that Mrs. Routier's conviction and death
sentence will stand.

"I'm not afraid of the testing," Ms. Moore said, adding that the defense
has to prove there is consistent evidence of an unidentified person who
might have been an intruder.

Mrs. Routier's appellate attorneys have been filing requests in both state
and federal courts. In state courts, they have asked for post-conviction
DNA testing, which was first allowed for Texas prisoners in 2001. On the
federal side, her attorneys have asked for a writ of habeas corpus to
fight her death penalty conviction.

Even while granting the most recent round of testing, U.S. District Judge
Royal Furgeson questioned how some of the items might prove Mrs. Routier's
theory of an intruder attack, according to court records.

Even if another person's DNA is found on the bloody sock, that won't
necessarily prove that there was an intruder who killed the children,
Judge Furgeson wrote in his 18-page ruling.

Judge Furgeson also denied some requests, including testing on a
blood-soaked night shirt that Mrs. Routier was wearing that night and a
review of previous DNA tests.

(source: KHOU News)


2 more cell phones found on death row—-Last month's discovery of a
mobile phone prompted statewide lockdown

2 more cell phones were found during regular death row inmate checks and
cell searches on Tuesday, officials said.

The first phone was located about midday when officers spotted it in the
trash. Officials believe an inmate tried to discard it for fear of being
caught, said Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokeswoman Michelle

The second phone was found at 2:30 p.m. inside the cell of death row
inmate Raphael Holiday as he attempted to flush it down the toilet, Lyons

The 29-year-old was convicted of murder in 2000 after he set fire to a
Madison County home, killing his daughter and 2 stepdaughters who ranged
in age from 1 to 7 years old, department records show.

Both phones were turned over to the Office of the Inspector General, which
will investigate how they were smuggled into the prison, Lyons said. The
OIG will also attempt to determine the owner of the phone found in the
trash, she added.

Holiday and the unidentified owner of the 2nd cell phone face disciplinary
action and could be classified in a more restrictive manner including a
loss of visitation, commissary privileges and less recreational time,
Lyons said.

''We are dedicated to ridding our units of cell phones and are continuing
to search for them wherever they may be hidden,'' she said.

A statewide lockdown of the prison system began last month after a death
row inmate allegedly made threatening calls to Senate Criminal Justice
Committee chairman John Whitmire, D-Houston, and shared his illegal cell
phone with at least nine of his fellow inmates.

Investigators determined some 2,800 calls were made from the phone from
inside the Polunsky Unit near Livingston. Since the lockdown was lifted
last week, officials have found a cell phone and other contraband in the
possession of death row inmate Mark Stroman and a cell phone hidden in the
rectum of convicted murderer Henry Skinner.

Whitmire said he was told one of the cell phones found Tuesday had a price
tag on it, prompting concern it may be new.

A spokeswoman for Gov. Rick Perry, who appoints board members to oversee
the prison system, called the discoveries proof that the system is
effective. Whitmire called the comment '' nice spin.''

''The question is, why did it ever get to this?'' he said. ''Apparently it
was a larger problem than anyone ever imagined.''

(source: Associated Press)