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Death row inmate to be executed by lethal injection despite claim of innocence: ‘We’d all like to know who done it’

Aug 21, 2019
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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="A death row inmate is set to be executed by lethal injection for the abduction, rape and murder of a&nbsp;Houston&nbsp;college student, despite his repeated claims of innocence.” data-reactid=”10″>A death row inmate is set to be executed by lethal injection for the abduction, rape and murder of a Houston college student, despite his repeated claims of innocence.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Larry Swearingen, 48, is scheduled to die in&nbsp;Texas&nbsp;on Wednesday evening for the killing of&nbsp;Melissa Trotter&nbsp;in December 1998.” data-reactid=”11″>Larry Swearingen, 48, is scheduled to die in Texas on Wednesday evening for the killing of Melissa Trotter in December 1998.

Prosecutors said they stand behind the “mountain of evidence” used to convict Swearingen in 2000.

James Rytting, Swearingen’s attorney, said he would ask the US Supreme Court to halt the execution.

He argued lower courts “have failed to take into account the considerable amount of evidence of innocence”.

Related Video: Man Spends 30 Years on Death Row, Says He’s Innocent

Swearingen, who is also represented by the Innocence Project, has previously received five stays of execution.

Appeals courts and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles declined to stop the execution.

If it goes ahead, Swearingen would be the 12th inmate put to death this year in the US and the fourth in Texas.

Kelly Blackburn, the trial bureau chief for the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, which prosecuted Swearingen, said his efforts to discredit the evidence have been unsuccessful because “his experts’ opinions don’t hold water”.

“I have absolutely zero doubt that anybody but Larry Swearingen killed … Melissa Trotter,” Ms Blackburn said.

During an interview in 2011, Swearingen told The Associated Press he was tired of being “demonised” for a crime he did not commit.

“We’d all like to know who done it,” he said.

Ms Trotter, the 19-year-old victim, was last seen leaving her community college in Conroe, and her body was found nearly a month later in a forest near Huntsville, about 70 miles (110km) north of Houston.

Ms Blackburn said Swearingen killed Ms Trotter because he was angry she had stood him up for a date. At the time of Ms Trotter’s killing, Swearingen was under indictment for kidnapping a former fiancee.

Swearingen has long tried to cast doubt on the evidence used to convict him, particularly claims by prosecution experts that Ms Trotter’s body had been in the woods for 25 days.

Mr Rytting said at least five defence experts concluded her body was there for no more than 14 days, and because Swearingen had already been arrested by then, he could not have left her body there.

Mr Rytting maintains that a piece of pantyhose used to strangle Ms Trotter was not a match to a piece found in Swearingen’s trailer.

He also disputes prosecution experts’ dismissal of evidence relating to the blood found in Ms Trotter’s fingernail shavings, which was determined to not be Swearingen’s, and says this supports the defence theory that someone else killed her.

In letters sent to Swearingen’s attorneys in July and August, the Texas Department of Public Safety said its technicians should not have been as definitive in their testimony about the blood found in the fingernails and the pantyhose match.

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals last week turned down Swearingen’s challenge to the blood evidence and pantyhose match, citing the “mountain of evidence” that “seals Swearingen’s guilt for Trotter’s murder.”

Ms Blackburn said Swearingen has tried to get people to lie in order to give him an alibi.

After his arrest, Swearingen got another inmate to write a letter Swearingen composed in Spanish that professed to be from the real killer and had it sent to his attorney.

In 2017, Swearingen and another death row inmate, Anthony Shore, concocted a plan to get Shore to take responsibility for Ms Trotter’s killing. Shore was executed last year.

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Mr Rytting said Swearingen is guilty of doing “some very stupid things,” but prosecutors don’t have proof he killed Trotter.

“Hopefully we are one step closer to giving [Trotter’s family] that justice that they’ve so long waited for,” Ms Blackburn said.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Additional reporting by Associated Press” data-reactid=”42″>Additional reporting by Associated Press

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Death row inmate has conviction quashed due to lack of black jurors” data-reactid=”44″>Death row inmate has conviction quashed due to lack of black jurors

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="1,500th person executed since US brought back death penalty” data-reactid=”45″>1,500th person executed since US brought back death penalty

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Death row inmate asks that last meal be used to feed homeless person” data-reactid=”46″>Death row inmate asks that last meal be used to feed homeless person

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Execution halted as time to administer lethal injection runs out” data-reactid=”47″>Execution halted as time to administer lethal injection runs out

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