January 23, 2009
More on Larry Swearingen

I've blogged before about Larry Swearingen, who is on death row and is scheduled for execution on January 27 even though forensic evidence clearly demonstrates his innocence of the murder of Melissa Trotter. Multiple experts, including the Harris County medical examiner who originally testified against him at his trial, now say that Trotter's body was dumped while Swearingen was sitting in a jail cell. Yet the Court of Criminal Appeals, that bastion of injustice and illogic, has refused to order a new trial. It's appalling, and is going to be a huge, avoidable tragedy if nothing happens to prevent it.

Now the Chron's Lisa Falkenberg has picked up on the Texas Monthly story about Swearingen. She adds a few new details, including this:

Attorneys with the New-York based Innocence Project are also working feverishly on requests for DNA testing on the panty hose, Trotter's clothing and more blood scrapings. They plan to appeal to Gov. Rick Perry's office for a stay, and have unsuccessfully tried to get newly elected Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon to support a request for DNA testing.

Ligon didn't return my call. Marc Brumberger, who handles the office's appeals, said the new evidence doesn't prove Swearingen didn't kill Trotter. It only "throws in the prospect" that Swearingen may have initially refrigerated or frozen her body, then had help from an accomplice moving it into the woods while he was in jail.

[Swearingen's attorney James] Rytting calls that far-fetched theory "guilt by imagination." He said the DA's office is grasping for explanations now that their case is crumbling.

"Their case is a lie and they're going to kill him anyway," Rytting says.

I shouldn't be by now, but I continue to be amazed at how utterly pigheaded some DA's offices can be about this. Have we learned nothing from Dallas' experience? Let me put this in the simplest terms I can, simple enough that even Brett Ligon and Mark Brumberger can understand it: The actions of the Montgomery County District Attorney's office will enable a murderer to walk free and possibly to kill again. Even if you don't care about Larry Swearingen, you ought to care about that.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 23, 2009 to Crime and Punishment

It is amazing that self-righteous posturing pro- and con- the death penalty seldom focuses on the fact that a wrongly not convicted person is usually walking around committing more crime, at least for a while, whenever another person is wrongly convicted.

There is also the case of a person wrongly convicted of one crime but wrongly not convicted of another.

There is always a lot of those sorts of error wherever the incarceration rate is high and the primary mission of the police is enforcing economic discrimination and collecting indirect taxes, as in Texas today or the Soviet Union "back in the day".

Actually, the real culprit of one crime is often caught and convicted of subsequent, usually lesser, crimes.

Sadly, the efficiency and effectiveness of police work is not an issue for "bubble" politicians who work the delusional, also cowardly and complicit,"center". They, not moralistic or ideological extremists of the left or right, are our actual problem today.

That kind of unrealistic governance is summarized by Jonathan Schell in The Nation here.

President Obama seems to be very aware of it as he notes of the financial crisis that it is "a consequence of greed and irresponsibility on the part of some, but also our collective failure to make hard choices and prepare the nation for a new age."

Posted by: JRBehrman on January 23, 2009 8:12 AM
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