A Texas-killed prisoner who has always maintained his innocence and claims his conviction was based on junk science will be executed for the abduction, rape and murder of a suburban college student more than 20 years ago.
Larry Swearingen, 48, is scheduled to receive a fatal injection Wednesday night for the killing of Melissa Trotter in December 1998. The 19-year-old was last seen leaving her community college in Conroe, and her body was found nearly a month later in a forest near Huntsville, about 110 miles north of Houston.
Prosecutors said they were behind the "mountain of evidence" used to convict Swearingen in 2000. They described him as a sociopath with a criminal history of violence against women, and said he was trying to get a colleague to death for credit for his crime.
Swearing's lawyers late Tuesday asked the United States Supreme Court to suspend the execution. They claim that prosecutors used "false and misleading testimony" related to blood evidence and a pair of tights used to stifle Trotter. Swearingen, which is also represented by the Innocence project, has previously received five executions.
The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals last week dismissed a challenge to the testimony, saying it would not have many differences in the trial of the "mountain of inculpatory evidence" against Swearingen.
The 5th Circuit "failed to take into account the significant amount of evidence of innocence in the record that has evolved over the years," said James Rytting, Swearingen's longtime appellate attorney.
If the execution happens, Swearingen would be the 1
Kelly Blackburn, the Attorney General's Office for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Swearingen, said Swearing's efforts to discredit the evidence have not succeeded because "his experts' opinions do not hold water."
"I have absolutely no doubt that anyone other than Larry Swearingen killed … Melissa Trotter," Blackburn said.
During a 2011 interview, Swearingen told the Associated Press that he was tired of being "demonized" for a crime he did not commit.
"We would all like to know who did it," he said.
Blackburn said that Swearingen killed Trotter because he was angry that she had stood him up on a date. At the time of Trotter's death, Swearingen was charged with kidnapping a former fiancee.
"Hopefully we are one step closer to giving (Trotter's family) the justice they have been waiting for so long," Blackburn said.  Swearingen has long sought to question evidence used to convict him, especially claims by prosecutors that Trotter's body had been in the woods for 25 days. Rytting said that at least five defense experts concluded that her body was there for a maximum of 14 days, and since Swearingen had already been arrested at that time on outstanding traffic options, he could not have left her body there.
In Tuesday's appeal to the Supreme Court, Swearingen's lawyers argued that a piece of tights used to choke Trotter was not a match to a piece found in Swearingen's trailer and a testimony by a criminal laboratory technician who said it was a match is "restrained , invalid. " They also question the prosecutor's claims to shed blood found in Trotter's shavings in the nails, saying that the blood, which was determined not to be Swearingen, supports the defense theory that someone else killed her.
the Texas Department of Public Safety said that its technicians should not have been so crucial in their testimony about the blood found in the nails and tights. The 5th Circuit disagreed with the defense's accusations that the testimony of the blood evidence and tights match was false and misleading.
Blackburn said that Swearingen has tried to make people lie to give him an alibi. After his arrest, Swearingen was given another prisoner to write a letter which Swearingen composed in Spanish and who professed to be from the real killer and had it sent to his lawyer. In 2017, Swearingen and another inmate, Anthony Shore, gathered a plan to get Shore to take responsibility for Trotter's killing. Shore was executed last year.
Rytting said that Swearingen is guilty of having done "some very stupid things," but prosecutors have no evidence that he killed Trotter.
Lozano reported from Houston.  ———
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