Two months ago, I wrote about Marion Wilson– a man who was murdered via state-sanctioned execution despite being innocent of his alleged crime. Today, the state of Texas executed Larry Swearingen even though he was in jail when the crime was committed. He was the twelfth person killed the government in 2019.
Larry Swearingen was convicted of raping and murdering his friend Melissa Trotter and sentenced to death in 2000. Melissa was strangled to death with one leg of a pantyhose and left in the Sam Houston National Forest in January 1999. Cops in Montgomery County searched Larry’s residence twice for evidence linking him to the murder, but found nothing until after her body was discovered and his landlord saw an opposing pantyhose leg in his trailer. A Texas Department of Public Safety lab technician testified at the trial that the pantyhose found in Larry’s trailer was a “a unique physical match” to that of the pantyhose that killed Melissa Trotter and that any other pantyhose should be excluded as a match. However, according to the Washington Post, “Two experts in fiber analysis who compared the pieces of hose have since concluded they don’t match when lined up next to each other, and a third said the state technician’s testimony was overstated. And last month, the Texas Department of Public Safety said the technician should not have testified the pieces matched ‘to the exclusion of all others.'” Larry Swearingen and his lawyers at the Innocence Project previously filed petitions for a writ of habeas corpus from the United States Court of Appeals so that they could display new evidence proving his innocence. The Texas DPS stated in the past month that they had provided inaccurate testimony in favor of Larry’s guilt, saying, “DPS’s expert had an ‘insufficient basis’ for her testimony and, in fact, ‘no direct knowledge’ that the only male DNA identified on the murder victim— which excluded Mr. Swearingen— was the result of contamination.”
However, both the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit denied Larry’s application and rejected the new DPS testimony on Friday night. The Washington Post’s investigation explained how Larry’s jailing proved his innocence even more than the junk science presented, saying, “Seven other forensic pathology experts have said Trotter’s death couldn’t have occurred more than two weeks before her body was found, and Swearingen had been in jail for 22 days before the discovery.” Since his imprisonment and placement on death row for the past 19 years, Larry Swearingen was scheduled to be executed five times and was given five stays of execution. Sadly, although Larry’s attorneys with the Innocence Project filed a motion with the United States Supreme Court seeking a stay of today’s execution, Larry Swearingen was strapped to a gurney and killed by lethal injection at 6:47 p.m. Larry’s last words were “Lord forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing.”