Saturday, January 24, 2009

"Guilt by Imagination"

(Update: The Fifth Circuit Court has issued a stay of execution for Swearingen. It can't be said that the petition, which was sent to Perry's office and not the 5th Circuit, had anything to do with this. But I thank those who took the time to send a copy, anyway.)

Go here and sign this petition. Do it now. Why? Because an innocent man's life hangs in the balance.

When I see stories that are covered by giant sites like Firedoglake and Democratic Underground (Yeah, I have registered accounts at both places. Shh) on the same day, I tend to look more closely at that story.

This particular story is about Larry Swearingen, who's on Death Row in Texas for murdering a college coed in 1998. Four pathologists who have done the requisite scientific spade work have sworn that, in their opinion, Larry Swearingen couldn't possibly have killed the girl because he was in prison.

The victim, Melissa Trotter, was dumped in the Sam Houston National Forest in East Texas. Her "curiously preserved body" led authorities conclude that it had lain in the woods for longer than it actually was, which was before Swearingen went to jail on minor traffic violations. In fact, this is apparently all the evidence Texas prosecutors need to send you to Death Row:
Prosecutors disagree, saying compelling evidence ties Swearingen to the crime, including a match between the panty hose leg found around Trotter's neck and the stocking remnant found in a trash dump next to Swearingen's mobile home. Also, hair and fibers show Trotter had been in Swearingen's truck and mobile home.

Yeah, you read that right. Bullshit circumstantial evidence that doesn't even tie you to the scene of the crime much less the actual commission of the crime is enough to kill you even if you were already behind bars at the time of the murder. Swearingen's appellate attorney rightly calls this "guilt by imagination."

Swearingen is scheduled to be executed on Tuesday. The petition sends an email directly to Governor Rick Perry and those in the Texas Board of Appeals. Do the right thing and get this man a new trial, starting with getting his execution stayed.


At January 24, 2009 at 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

So the only direct evidence is that he had been in her car and her home at an unspecified time.

Indirect evidence found part of a stocking somewhere near his home, but aside from distance there is nothing to connect him to the stocking.

And that's it?

I recall years ago the Supreme Court refusing to hear an appeal for someone as obviously innocent as this fellow is. Their reasoning was that if they let an obviously innocent man free, then it would call into question every guilty verdict ever throughout all of history and no one would have any confidence in the judicial system for the rest of time.

The prosecutors in Texas care far more about their reputation for convictions rather than being right. So if an obviously innocent man has to die to protect the AG, then so be it...

This is crazy.

At January 24, 2009 at 7:40 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Most people call it Texas.

At January 24, 2009 at 8:02 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I sent an email, based on the ACLU text, directly to Gov. Perry's email.

TX is fucked up! That and FL, I never want to ever step foot in those states...

At January 24, 2009 at 8:10 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Tell me about it, dude. I've lived in both states (and was even raised in Florida.) and I'm leery about just flying over those states. I actually have a fear of going to Texas and being within two miles of a murder and getting arrested and convicted for it. If I did a top ten list of ten of our looniest states, Texas and Florida would probably occupy the top two spots.

At January 24, 2009 at 11:18 PM, Blogger daveawayfromhome said...

You can send all the letters you want to "Rent-boy" Rick Perry (my own appellation - it's not official), but unless it's accompanied by a lobbyist or a Jesus-freak, dont expect him to pay any attention to it.

At January 25, 2009 at 9:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are so right. I have spent some time in both states. Texas is downright scary and Florida is a state chock-full of fuckups.

At January 25, 2009 at 11:25 AM, Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

the texas death machine has been merrily chugging along. not at the record setting pace it did when bush was guvner, but chugging right along nonetheless.

if this isn't enough to get people to turn against capital punishment i don't know what will.

of course, the good people of texas will remember that society, ever since ancient times has needed ways to protect itself from people like jesus.

At January 25, 2009 at 4:57 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If being in prison at the time of the crime isn't a good enough alibi, what is? I wonder what the cops who investigated this murder had against him. (Yes, cops in TX will go out of their way to make life hell for someone they don't like. I've seen it happen.)


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