Larry Swearingen’s execution has been halted due to a clerical error. The Montgomery County District Clerk’s office sent the execution order to the Texas Attorney General instead of the Office of Capital and Forensic Writs as required by law. Swearingen was originally scheduled to be executed on November 16, 2017 for the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter. Swearingen has faced four serious dates in 2007, 2009, 2011 and most recently in 2013.
Swearingen has consistently maintained his innocence in the death of Melissa Trotter, and he and his attorneys have filed numerous appeals seeking DNA testing of items from the crime scene. According to The Intercept’s Jordan Smith, “While the state’s case against him was built on circumstantial evidence, there was also a trove of physical evidence that prosecutors seemingly either ignored or dismissed.”
According to the Houston Chronicle,
“Years-long legal battles over DNA testing have become a hallmark of Swearingen’s case, which even sparked changes to state laws regarding post-conviction DNA testing in 2015. Both sides have pushed for DNA testing at times, but always using different legal mechanisms and never in agreement.
At least twice, a trial court judge sided with Swearingen’s testing requests – but each time the state slapped down the lower court’s move, ruling that new DNA wouldn’t be enough to counter the ‘mountain of evidence’ pointing to Swearingen’s guilt.”
Recently, however, Swearingen’s attorneys and the State finally agreed to test several items, including fingernail scrapings and hair. His execution date has not been rescheduled.
For extensive background information on the case, read “Texas Schedules Execution But Refuses DNA Tests That Could Prove A Man’s Innocence” by Jordan Smith.