death penalty forensic science Larry Swearingen Stay of execution Texas. Court of Criminal Appeals

Swearingen Case Back in Court

Texas death row inmate, Larry Swearingen, has been given a chance to introduce evidence that he claims will prove his innocence of the murder of Melissa Trotter. Testimony began Monday, February 27, in a Montgomery County district court and is expected to focus on the role that scientific evidence played in Swearingen’s conviction.  The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals ordered the hearing last year when it granted Swearingen a stay of execution.

The primary question currently being examined in the Swearingen case deals with the time of death for Melissa Trotter.  Her body was discovered in the the Sam Hous­ton National Forest 25 days after she went missing on December 8, 1998. Attorneys  for Swearingen say that numerous forensic specialists, including Texas medical examiners, will present evidence that was not originally considered in the trial.  They agree that  Trotter had been dead for only a few days before her body was found on January 2, 1999.

Swearingen had been arrested and jailed on an unrelated charge on December 11 and claims that he could not have killed Trotter as he was in jail at the time of her death. His attorneys also have statements from medical examiners saying that tissue samples taken from Trotter’s organs clearly suggest that she was killed no more than a few days before she was found.  Prosecutors plan to call their own experts during the evidentiary hearing who they believe will prove that Trotter was killed in early December.

Read more in the Austin Chronicle and Houston Chronicle.