Thursday, 5 July 2007

Convicted Killer's Defense Offers New Evidence

Convicted Killer's Defense Offers New Evidence

That's the title of an article in today's Houston Chronicle about the case of Larry Swearingen. LINK

In seeking a new trial for convicted killer Larry Swearingen, who won a stay a day before his scheduled execution, defense attorneys on Monday presented new evidence they say contradicts the state's case and proves he is innocent.

Swearingen is on death row for sexual assault and strangulation of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter of Willis, who disappeared from Montgomery College on Dec. 8, 1998. He was set to die Jan. 24, but the Texas Criminal Court of Appeals granted him a reprieve.

During a hearing before Judge Fred Edwards of Montgomery County's 9th state District Court, Swearingen's attorney, James Rytting, tried to show that Swearingen could not have committed the crime based on the state's theory of how it happened — because he was in jail.

Trotter's body was found Jan, 2, 1999, in the Sam Houston National Forest. The Harris County medical examiner determined that her body had been in the forest for 25 days before it was found, based on insect activity, and placed her date of death on Dec. 8.

Swearingen's experts say that based on the presence of the insects on her body, Trotter died after Dec. 11 and as late as Dec. 18, when they say insect infestation occurred. Swearingen was arrested on Dec. 11 on an unrelated charge and remained in jail until his trial.

Defense entomology expert James Arends testified Monday that the body could not have been in the forest for any longer than a week because of the lack of insect activity reported in the medical examiner's report and a second report by another defense expert. He also said that Trotter's body was likely frozen and moved to the forest.

Jeffery Tomberlin, an expert for the prosecution, said it is not unusual to see a delay of insect activity on a decomposing body. He also said that the Dec. 18 insect infestation date would be consistent with the body being in the woods for 25 days.

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