Texas Court Stays Execution to Review Claim of Innocence

On July 28, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the scheduled August 18 execution of Larry Swearingen (pictured) in order to consider new evidence that might prove his innocence. Swearingen was convicted of the 1998 murder of Melissa Trotter, whose body was found in the Sam Houston National Forest. Trotter was last seen alive with Swearingen. Forensic scientists who examined the evidence from Trotter’s body have said that she could not have been in the forest for longer than two weeks, which means that her murder would have happened while Swearingen was in jail for an unrelated offense. In 2007, Dr. Joye Carter, a medical examiner who testified at Swearingen’s trial in 2000 that the victim had been in the forest for 25 days, changed her original conclusion after reviewing new evidence that indicated the murder happened within two weeks of the body’s discovery.

(B. Grissom, “Criminal Appeals Court Grants Rare Execution Stay,” Texas Tribune, July 28, 2011). See Arbitrariness and Innocence.