Saturday, January 31, 2009


One of the lessons of the Goudge Inquiry was the ease with which innocent persons could be convicted of murder strictly on the basis of the pathological evidence on questions such as the time and cause of death - which all too often was wrong.

Many Canadians reacted in horror to the spectre of innocent parents put through the horror of being charged with murdering their own children because of faulty pathological evidence.

That sense of horror is compounded where there is the possibility that an innocent person is being executed by the state in circumstances where there are strong suggestions that the pathologists got it wrong.

The Larry Swearingen case is very much in point;


Court TV reporter Emanuella Grinberg describer larry swearingen's background in a story headed: "His life: Sports, steroids and violence against women" which accompanied an extensive interview which ran before his scheduled execution date; (January 24, 2009);

"Larry Ray Swearingen was born in Montgomery County, Texas, on May 21, 1971, the third child of Ray and Pamela Swearingen," her story began;

"After Ray Swearingen died in a car accident in 1981, Pamela and the three children moved in with her parents," the story contineud;

"During the penalty phase of Larry Swearingen's capital murder trial, she testified that her father frequently beat her and her mother in front of the children, and that Larry would often attempt to intervene.

When Swearingen was in his early teens, his mother remarried Joseph Martinez III. In an interview with, Swearingen described Martinez as his "best friend and biggest supporter."

In high school, Swearingen says, he took on the role of a jock by participating in track, football and softball. At his coaches' urging, Swearingen claims he began taking steroids to enhance his performance.

But Swearingen says the drugs had an adverse effect on his relationship with his family and his commitment to school. By his junior year, his girlfriend was pregnant with his son. He dropped out of school to work various odd jobs.

The relationship did not last, and shortly after his son's birth in 1990, Swearingen married a woman who later gave birth to their daughter.

But the relationship quickly soured as Swearingen's violent streak emerged, according to the woman.

"[Swearingen] would wait for her at the door of their home and when she arrived he would begin hitting her, and sometimes strangled her with hands," court documents state.

After the two separated in 1992, according to the woman, Swearingen showed up at her job and harassed her. During Swearingen's penalty phase, the woman testified that she never reported the incidents for fear of losing custody of her daughter.

In one instance, Swearingen allegedly abducted her at knifepoint and drove her to a wooded area, where he raped her.

Another ex-girlfriend testified at his sentencing that she met him in 1994 at a Florida strip club and moved back with him to Texas. When she told him she planned to leave for California, he tied her up and threw her in a closet, she said.

He then allegedly beat and threatened her with a knife as both her child and Swearingen's son played in the yard.

The woman testified that he freed her when his mother arrived. She fled the state and did not return to press charges or tell her story until her appearance at Swearingen's sentencing.

Less than three months before 18-year-old Melissa Trotter disappeared, another ex-fiancée complained to police that Swearingen had assaulted and raped her.

According to court documents, Swearingen allegedly broke into her home, wrestled her to the ground, stuffed her mouth with newspaper and handcuffed her before beating and raping her.

One week later, the woman testified, Swearingen fired a bullet through her window and forced her into his car at gunpoint.

"[Swearingen] made [her] drive to a location within the Sam Houston National Forest that was approximately one mile from where Melissa's body would someday be discovered," court documents state. "She was able to appease Swearingen, and he eventually let her go."

Swearingen was arrested on the allegations and released on bond.

On Dec. 11, 1998, a detective with the Montgomery County sheriff's department paid a visit to a local convenience store as part of the investigation into the disappearance of Montgomery University student Melissa Trotter. Swearingen was there and sped off after noticing the officer.

The officer followed him to his mother's home, where he was arrested on outstanding traffic warrants. Swearingen was still in jail when authorities found Trotter's body nearly one month later and charged him with capital murder."