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10/29/17 - Lawyers agree to DNA testing in Swearingen's death row case


Larry Ray Swearingen was sentenced to death in July 2000 for the 1998 abduction, sexual assault and murder of Melissa Trotter, a 19-year-old college student from Montgomery County, Texas. DNA testing excluded Swearingen as the perpetrator, and forensic science provides an airtight alibi: Swearingen was in the county jail on outstanding traffic warrants at the time Trotter was murdered and her body dumped in the Sam Houston National Forest.


Trotter, who was last seen alive on December 8, 1998, was murdered and her body dumped in the woods by late end of December 1998 (after 12/23/98). Swearingen was arrested on December 11, 1998, and has not been released ever since.


Blood found under the victim's fingernails was tested for DNA. It was male in origin and excluded him as the donor. Moreover, a pubic hair recovered during autopsy excluded him as the perpetrator.


In July 2011, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed the third execution date and remanded the case back to the trial court to review and resolve Swearingen's claim of actual innocence and due process violation. On remand, the trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing in February/March 2012, after which the trial judge recommended that relief sought be denied for Swearingen. The TCCA adopted the trial judge's findings and conclusions, and ordered on December 12, 2012, that relief sought is denied.


Two days later then trial judge Fred Edwards issued a new death warrant for Swearingen, setting the fourth execution date for February 27, 2013.


At a hearing held on January 30, 2013, the new elected 9th state district court judge Kelly Case issued an indefinite stay of execution, stressing the need for "certainty over finality", so additional DNA testing can be done.


Since then, judge Kelly Case had ordered DNA testing of several items, including the murder weapon, three separate times – each time appealed by Montgomery County district attorneys. In October 2015, the state's highest court for criminal matters, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, has reversed the district court's decision to allow additional DNA testing and remanded the case back to the trial court. Subsequently, in November 2015, Swearingen's defense team filed a motion for rehearing in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, supported by a brief of amici curiae by five forensic scientists.


The motion for rehearing has been denied on 02/10/2016, basically clearing the way for the district attorney's office to file another motion to set date of execution. However, the defense team on 04/05/2016 filed a writ of mandamus in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.


9th state district court judge Kelly Case, who did not seek re-election after serving one term, resigned June 16, 2016. On June 20, 2016, former first assistant district attorney Phil Grant was officially sworn in as new judge of the 9th state district court, and Swearingen's case has been assigned to a new judge, Montgomery County visiting judge J.D. Langley.


Swearingen's petition for a writ of certiorari filed in the United States Supreme Court was denied without comment on October 3, 2016. Swearingen's application for a writ of mandamus filed in the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals was denied without written order on October 12, 2016.


The fight to obtain the right to DNA testing of the untested rape kit in this case went on with a civil rights lawsuit being filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Texas in October 2016. But on Juli 7, 2017, federal judge Lee Yeakel dismissed Swearingen's civil rights lawsuit for DNA testing, stating any favorable DNA evidence still would not overcome the "mountain of evidence" against Swearingen, paving the path to an execution date being set.


On August 9, 2017, visiting 9th state District Court Judge J.D. Langley signed the DA's motion for an execution date.


Swearingen's sixth execution date has now been set for November 16, 2017.


Due to severe illness and the passing of four of Swearingen's longterm friends in 2014, 2015, and only recently in 2017, this site had temporarily been shut down. This site is back online now, but we're new to the site.


We need your help and support in demanding DNA testing for an innocent man facing imminent execution by the state of Texas.


You can be for capital punishment in general, and you can dislike Larry Swearingen in particular. But how can you not test the rape kit in a murder case when the punishment is death and the outcome of the execution of that verdict irreversible?


Swearingen's attorney James Rytting said: "The bottom line is we've got a rape kit that's never been tested in a case that (has) a rape-murder theory. It's inconceivable why a court wouldn't want that to be looked at before you put someone to death. We have a murder weapon and the ability to test that for touch DNA. You should do it. It's not hard, it's not expensive and it's not time consuming to do it."


Larry Swearingen is being supported by the Innocence Project. You can support him, too!


The fight for DNA testing is far from over. Tell your friends, share this website with friends and family to spread the word, and check back for updates.


Thank you all very much for your support and welcome to this site.


- This website was last updated on February 7, 2019. -