On Monday District Judge Kelly Case granted another motion for DNA testing filed by convicted killer Larry Ray Swearingen. Although the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has twice previously ruled that Swearingen is not entitled to additional DNA testing of the evidence, Case granted the death row inmate’s request for testing of seven categories of evidence to determine if any DNA was left on the items at the time of the 1998 capital murder of Montgomery College student Melissa Trotter.
In 2010, the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed an order denying DNA testing signed by former district judge Fred Edwards. The Court of Criminal Appeals held that the existence of a third party’s DNA on items of evidence would not establish Swearingen’s innocence, given the “mountain of inculpatory evidence” of his guilt.
Shortly after the Court of Criminal Appeals denied Swearingen’s sixth application for habeas corpus relief, in which he claimed that forensic evidence established that he was in jail at the time of Trotter’s murder, Edwards signed an order directing that Swearingen be executed on February 27, 2013. It was the fourth execution date the inmate has faced. In January of 2013, however, Case set aside that order and granted Swearingen’s fourth request for DNA testing of the evidence.
Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon appealed Case’s order, and on February 14, 2014, the Court of Criminal Appeals reversed Case’s order and ruled that Swearingen is not entitled to further DNA testing. The Court again held that the discovery of a third party’s DNA would not make any difference in the outcome of the case in light of the “mountain of evidence” of Swearingen’s guilt, which included the recovery from Swearingen’s trailer of the pantyhose from which the ligature used in Trotter’s murder was fashioned.
Despite those previous rulings by the appellate court, Case’s most recent order states that he found that “Swearingen would probably not have been convicted if exculpatory results from the DNA testing requested in this Motion was obtained.” The Appeal Courts, however, have always ruled that the evidence of Swearingen’s guilt is overwhelming and these additional requests for DNA testing are frivolous and used only for delay.
Ligon stated that he would again appeal Case’s most recent order. “We have no doubt the court will again overrule this motion for the same reasons they have overruled the previous ones. This office remains committed to seeing that justice is done in accordance with the jury’s verdict, however long it takes,” Ligon said. “The Trotter family is always in our thoughts, and we look forward to ending the ordeal that this family has been forced to endure.”