Friday, December 13, 2013

Larry Swearingen; Death Row; Prosecutors fight court decision granting DNA testing request; Rodney Reed: Also on Death Row in Texas; Both cases involve forensic issues. The Austin Chronicle puts a spotlight on them in an article by reporter Jordan Smith entitled: "Death Watch: Two death row cases go before courts."

STORY: "Death watch: Two death row case go before courts," by reporter Jordan Smith, by reporter Jordan Smith, published by the Austin Chronicle on December 11, 2013.

SUB-HEADING; " Although the state’s execution chamber will remain dark until Jan. 16, 2014, the mechanics of justice continued to turn last week, with key hearings in two death penalty cases in two different appellate courts."

GIST:  "First, on the morning of Dec. 4, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals heard arguments in an appeal brought by Montgomery County prosecutors seeking to bar death row inmate Larry Swearingen from being allowed to test for DNA several pieces of physical evidence that to date have not been scientifically vetted. Swearingen was sentenced to die for the kidnapping and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, a community college student who disappeared Dec. 8, 1998. Swearingen was seen with Trotter not long before she disappeared. He was picked up by police on outstanding warrants several days after she went missing and was jailed; her body did not turn up until Jan. 2, 1999, when hunters found her in the Sam Houston National Forest. She had been strangled with a length of pantyhose, and there is considerable controversy regarding how long she had been dead at that time. Although there is no direct physical evidence linking Swearingen to her murder, the state points to a raft of circumstantial evidence that they say conclusively affirms his guilt – including a second length of pantyhose that was found inside his home after he was arrested. According to a state forensic examiner who conducted a visual comparison, the two lengths came from a single pair of hose, thus connecting Swearingen to the murder weapon. Because neither piece of hosiery has ever been tested for DNA, the results could provide definitive proof of Swearingen’s guilt or innocence, Jason Kreag, an attorney with the Innocence Project, argued before the CCA. Prosecutors argue instead for a reversal of a court decision granting the DNA request. (For more on the oral arguments, see “Swearingen to CCA: Please Test Evidence.”) .........Meanwhile, another Innocence Project attorney, Bryce Benjet, was in New Orleans the afternoon of Dec. 4, arguing before a three-judge panel of the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals that it should allow Rodney Reed to once again appeal his case to the federal district court. At issue is whether Reed was denied effective counsel that could have helped him show that he is not responsible for the murder of 19-year-old Stacey Stites, whose body was found off a country road in Bastrop in 1996. There was DNA inside her that officials later determined belonged to Reed.........At issue now for the Fifth Circuit is whether Reed should be allowed to have his claim of ineffective assistance heard by the federal district court. The claim had been barred, but should now be considered given a recent Supreme Court ruling on ineffective counsel, Benjet argues. For Reed, no one challenged the forensic link between the sperm and time of death until the federal appeal process had begun. That “temporal link” between the sperm, time of death, and Reed is “the heart of the state’s case,” Benjet argued, and could have established reasonable doubt had it been properly challenged at trial."

The entire story can be found at:


Dear Reader. Keep your eye on the Charles Smith Blog. We are following this case.

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The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

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