Wednesday, 24 January 2007

Swearingen Execution Stayed - UPDATED

Swearingen Execution Stayed - UPDATED

Wednesday's Houston Chronicle has, "'Insect evidence' prompts court to stay execution."

The Texas Criminal Court of Appeals granted the stay late Tuesday.

Swearingen's attorneys filed a motion Monday asking the court to halt the case because of new evidence they say proves his innocence.

According to the motion, Swearingen's attorneys have an expert witness who says insects found on or near Trotter's body prove she was killed after Swearingen's arrest.

''We believe that the insect expert's report exonerates Mr. Swearingen and that the information has come to light because the state stalled in getting us data the expert needed," said attorney Philip Hilder. "We just now were able to analyze the data and support our conclusion that the murder occurred at a different time than the state alleges."

According to the motion, Swearingen had requested the evidence from the state during an earlier appeal, but the state refused to disclose it, saying Swearingen "fail[ed] to prove that any insect evidence exists in this case."

AP reports that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has stayed Larry Swearingen's scheduled Wednesday execution. This filing is from the Houston Chronicle website.

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted the scheduled Wednesday execution of a man convicted of abducting and strangling a Montgomery County college student eight years ago.

The punishment for Larry Swearingen, 35, was put off late Tuesday so questions about evidence used against him at his capital murder trial can be reviewed, lawyers said.

Swearingen's attorneys had appealed in the state and federal courts, arguing the presence of specific insects from the site where 19-year-old Melissa Trotter's body was found in the Sam Houston National Forest disputes prosecutors' insistence and evidence that Swearingen killed her.

"The insect evidence is powerful proof that Ms. Trotter died when Mr. Swearingen was in the custody of Montgomery County police," his appeal said.

Montgomery County prosecutors had opposed the request but acknowledged because of the short time until Swearingen was to have died, the appeals court needed more information and stopped the punishment.

As we noted yesterday, Ronald Chambers' Thursday execution was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court over the issue of the jury instructions in the sentencing phase of his capital murder trial. The next scheduled execution in Texas is January 30. The list of scheduled executions, maintained by TDCJ, is here. Execution dates in Texas are set by the individual state district court with jurisdiction over the case.

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