The Texas Tribune posts, "Death Row Inmate Larry Swearingen's Execution Stayed," written by Brandi Grissom.
Montgomery County state district court Judge Kelly Case on Wednesday withdrew an order that had set the execution of condemned murderer Larry Swearingen for Feb. 27. The judge's decision came after a hearing in which Swearingen's lawyers argued that more time was required to accomplish DNA testing they believe will prove his innocence in the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter.
Montgomery County assistant district attorney Bill Delmore said he was disappointed with the decision, the first ruling in the case from the newly elected judge. Delmore said that prosecutors had offered to conduct the testing at the state's expense in an expedited manner that would allow the execution to proceed as scheduled. Swearingen's lawyers, however, declined.
"Their refusal to negotiate on the timing of doing the testing between now and the execution date suggests their motion was primarily for the purpose of delay," Delmore said.
Bryce Benjet, a lawyer for the New York-based Innocence Project who is representing Swearingen said that more time is needed to conduct the complicated testing that is necessary in the case.
"Condemned man gets another reprieve," is the Houston Chronicle report by Renée C. Lee.
Judge Kelly Case, however, did not rule on a defense motion requesting DNA testing on crime scene evidence. Instead, he ordered both sides to file responses to the motion in 60 days, so he can determine if DNA testing should be done.
Swearingen, 41, was set to die by lethal injection on Feb. 27 for the 1998 murder of Montgomery County student Melissa Trotter. Swearingen, who has maintained his innocence, has escaped three other execution dates over the past six years.
Case, who is newly elected to the 9th State District Court which has presided over the 14-year case, also denied a motion from prosecutors seeking the release of crime scene evidence for immediate DNA testing. The motion was in response to the defense's request for testing filed on Jan. 17.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said he filed the motion last week after Swearingen's attorney agreed to accept his offer to pay for expedited DNA testing to ensure results would be available before the execution. Swearingen's attorney's later rejected the offer, said Montgemery prosecutor Warren Diepraam.
The defense, however, contended that more time is needed because the testing is complicated and could require more analysis. Defense attorneys also accused the prosecution of trying to short cut the legal system.
"Judge withdraws execution date in college slaying," by AP, via KRGV-TV.
A state district judge Wednesday withdrew next month's execution date for a 41-year-old convicted killer who now has avoided the Texas death chamber four times.
Judge Kelly Case ordered that Larry Swearingen's Feb. 27 lethal injection be put off indefinitely, clearing the way for DNA testing in his case.
Swearingen is on death row for the 1998 abduction, rape and strangling of Melissa Trotter, a 19-year-old Montgomery County community college student. His attorneys, who include lawyers from the New York-based Innocence Project, contend he didn't kill Trotter and say evidence that was never tested for DNA would support their contention.
James Rytting, one of Swearingen's lawyers, called the decision "just."
"The judge recognized the need to have the testing pursuant to the statute, pursuant to the law" Rytting said.
Trotter's body was found in January 1999 in the Sam Houston National Forest south of Huntsville, nearly a month after she was last seen leaving the library at a suburban Houston community college.
Prosecutors said they could do DNA testing without withdrawing Swearingen's execution date. Swearingen's lawyers declined, saying the testing would require much more time and need not be rushed. Case also refused to reset Swearingen's punishment for Aug. 28, as suggested by prosecutors.
"I'm not setting an execution date until I'm satisfied all DNA testing is concluded," Case said.
Earlier coverage of Larry Swearingen's case begins at the link.