Texas executes man in college student's death

Larry Swearingen is set for execution for a 1998 Texas slaying. His lawyer says bad science got him on death row

Larry Swearingen is set for execution for a 1998 Texas slaying. His lawyer says bad science got him on death row

Larry Swearingen, 48, who had professed his innocence in the case, was given a lethal injection and pronounced dead at 6:47 p.m. CDT at the state's death chamber in Huntsville, Jeremy Desel, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, said in an email.

Texas has executed a man who maintained his innocence in the abduction, rape and murder of a suburban Houston community college student more than 20 years ago.

"Testimony at Swearingen's capital murder trial indicated that he killed her because she had broken a date with him", says Robert Hurst, spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) in Huntsville.

His lawyers have long argued that scientific evidence - including DNA under the victim's fingernails that was not Swearingen's - should have exonerated him.

On Monday, the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles denied Swearingen's request for clemency.

A jury convicted and sentenced Swearingen to die in 2000 for the murder of Melissa Trotter, who disappeared on December 8, 1998. Witnesses testified they saw Trotter leave campus with Swearingen on December 8, according to court documents. Swearingen, who is also represented by the Innocence Project, has previously received five stays of execution.

"Lord forgive them. They don't know what they are doing", he said in his last words.

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Swearingen would be the 12th inmate executed in the United States and the fourth in Texas in 2019, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.

Prosecutors said they stood behind the "mountain of evidence" used to convict Swearingen in 2000.

Kelly Blackburn, the trial bureau chief for the Montgomery County District Attorney's Office, which prosecuted Swearingen, said Swearingen's efforts to discredit the evidence have been unsuccessful because "his experts' opinions don't hold water".

Swearingen's attorneys had urged the Supreme Court to stop the execution, alleging prosecutors used "false and misleading testimony" related to blood evidence and a piece of pantyhose used to strangle Trotter, but the high court rejected the appeal.

The state also pointed to the fact that Swearingen's wife found a lighter and a pack of cigarettes matching Trotter's preferred brand in the couple's trailer, although they did not smoke, and a detective found a pair of pantyhose in the trash outside the trailer with one leg missing.

Swearingen said he was innocent right up until his death. Swearingen, 27, quickly became a suspect due to what Click2Houston reports was footage of the two talking at a marina two days prior. The 5th Circuit disagreed with defense allegations that the testimony about the blood evidence and pantyhose match was false and misleading. In 2017, Swearingen and another death row inmate, Anthony Shore, concocted a plan to get Shore to take responsibility for Trotter's killing. Shore, who was on death row for another crime, was executed past year.

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