Judge delays execution of man in Montgomery Co. murder case

January 31, 2013 4:00:39 AM PST
The family of a murdered 19-year-old woman will have to wait a little longer to get justice.

We first told you about Melissa Trotter's case last week, and now there's a significant update.

Trotter's family has been waiting 14 years for justice, but after a Montgomery County judge's ruling on Wednesday, that timeline will keep ticking. Larry Swearingen will not be executed on February 27.

"I have to know there is going to be justice for Melissa, eventually, in this lifetime and the next," her mother, Sandy Trotter said.

Prosecutors argue the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals has already said the defendant isn't entitled to additional DNA testing.

"Mr. Swearingen is probably the most guilty person in the history of Montgomery County when it comes to capital murder," Montgomery County Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam said.

But defense attorneys cite a 2011 change in Texas law that involves DNA testing requirements.

"He's innocent. He didn't do the crime," Swearingen's attorney, Philip Hilder, said.

During the original trial, prosecutors were confident they could get a conviction in the 19-year-old's death without certain DNA testing but agreed to it on Wednesday to move the case along.

"As soon as we agreed to do what they wanted, immediately they objected," Diepraam said.

Attorneys from the Innocence Project representing Swearingen say the timeline the DA is proposing on the testing is too quick.

"The district attorney's office wanted to shortcut that procedure, and fortunately, the court is going to allow this procedure to go in a very orderly fashion," Hilder said.

"My heart goes out to them, but Larry has a family too and he's most likely an innocent man," said Gloria Rubac, a family friend of Swearingen.

Just before his ruling, Judge Kelly Case said, "I think we need certainty before we have finality."

"There's not one doubt in my mind about certainty that Swearingen murdered my daughter. I feel for his mom, we're both losing a kid," Sandy Trotter said.

Prosecutors asked the judge to set an August execution date but it was denied. Right now, there's no timeline for an execution date or for the DNA testing.

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