*** Press Release (05/28/15): Texas Governor Signs Measure to Fix Texas DNA Testing Law ***
Larry Ray Swearingen was sentenced to death in July 2000 for the 1998 abduction, sexual assault and murder of Melissa Trotter, a 19-year-old college student from Montgomery County, Texas. DNA testing excluded Swearingen as the perpetrator, and forensic science provides an airtight alibi: Swearingen was in the county jail on outstanding traffic warrants at the time Trotter was murdered and her body dumped in the Sam Houston National Forest.
Trotter, who was last seen alive on December 8, 1998, was murdered and her body dumped in the woods by late end of December 1998 (after 12/23/98). Swearingen was arrested on December 11, 1998, and has not been released ever since.
Blood found under the victim's fingernails was tested for DNA. It was male in origin and excluded him as the donor. Moreover, a pubic hair recovered during autopsy excluded him as the perpetrator.
In July 2011, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the third execution date and remanded the case back to the trial court to review and resolve Swearingen's claim of actual innocence and due process violation.
On remand, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing in February/March 2012, after which the trial judge recommended that relief sought be denied for Swearingen. The TCCA adopted the trial judge's findings and conclusions, and ordered on December 12, 2012, that relief sought is denied.
Two days later then trial judge Fred Edwards issued a new death warrant for Swearingen, and set the fourth execution date for February 27, 2013.
At a hearing held on January 30, 2013, the new 9th state district court judge Kelly Case issued an indefinite stay of execution, stressing the need for "certainty over finality", so additional DNA testing can be done.
Since then, judge Kelly Case had ordered DNA testing of several items, including the murder weapon, three separate times – each time appealed by Montgomery County district attorneys. In October 2015, the state's highest court for criminal matters, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has reversed the district court's decision to allow additional DNA testing and remanded the case back to the trial court. Subsequently, in November 2015, Swearingen's defense team filed a motion for rehearing in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, supported by a brief of amici curiae by five forensic scientists.
The motion for rehearing has been denied on 02/10/2016, clearing the way for the district attorney's office to file another motion to set date of execution. However, the defense team on 04/05/2016 filed a writ of mandamus in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.
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