Montgomery Co. DA approves death-row inmate's request for more DNA testing

January 25, 2013 8:15:40 PM PST
The execution of a high-profile convicted killer has taken an unusual turn. The man on death row insists he didn't do it, and now has a chance to prove it.

The last picture taken of Melissa Trotter was taken at a wedding just three days before her December 1998 murder. Her body was found about a month later in Sam Houston National Forest.

Her mother, Sandy Trotter, still wears her daughter's cross.

"We just try to be able to remember that she's a lot more than what happened December 8 and just keeping her memory alive," Sandy Trotter said.

Prosecutors say she had gone on a first date with Larry Swearingen which ended in her death. Now after 14 years on death row, attorneys for her killer are asking for additional DNA testing and a stay of execution.

"They claim this is new evidence this and new evidence that, it's not. It's the same thing that they've always had," Melissa's dad, Charles Trotter, said.

Evidence presented during trial indicated Trotter was sexually assaulted and strangled with part of a pair of pantyhose. The rest of the pantyhose were discovered in Swearingen's home.

But in an unprecedented move, Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon agreed to the DNA testing, even offering to pay for it and put it on the fast track.

"We feel not only beyond a reasonable doubt but beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is the person who killed Melissa Trotter," Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam said.

Co-director of the Innocence Project Barry Scheck said they are relieved by the DA's offer they claim could prove Swearingen's innocence, but says "rushing" the testing is "unacceptable."

"Due to the nature of the evidence in this case, the testing required is complicated and could require several different types of analysis. The careful forensic work required will simply take more time than we have under the execution date that was set by the state," Scheck said in a statement to Eyewitness News.

"I can only conclude they are doing this as a stalling tactic and for delay purposes," Diepraam said.

The Trotter family says the wait should be over.

"This kind of nonsense has been going on for 14 years. It's time for the sentence to be carried out," Charles said.

Both sides in the case will be heard at a hearing scheduled for next Wednesday at the Montgomery County Courthouse.
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