Kimberly's execution was postponed until April 3rd when her lawyers raised issues of racial bias.
March saw all of its scheduled executions stayed.
Three from Pennsylvania; Freeman May, Orlando Maisonet, and Abraham Sanchez all received a stay of execution. Edward Schad from Arizona, and Michael Gonzales from Texas were also stayed.
Will April bring the same luck to Kimmie? Another person hoping April will carry through on the luck is Larry Swearingen of Texas. His case is drawing attention because of Texas's utter lack of concern over the mounting evidence in his behalf.
As it moves down the roster of executions scheduled for this year, the state is perilously close to adding another name to its list of potential innocents: Larry Swearingen, whose case highlights a growing tension in Texas between science and the law. Add to that conflict the all-too-familiar problems of prosecutorial bias and tough-on-crime politics, and you’ve got a recipe for wrongful conviction that, when death is involved, can’t ever be remedied.
In Swearingen’s case, the courts have demonstrated little tolerance for scientific questions that are not only central to his guilt or innocence, but that have implications for every single death investigation in the state. Until Texas courts— particularly the state’s highest criminal court, the Court of Criminal Appeals (CCA)—accept that understanding science is key to doing justice, the risk that innocent men and women will be locked up, or worse, is inevitable. And in the absence of such a eureka moment, Swearingen, whose latest execution date was February 27, will die despite serious unresolved questions about his guilt.
Swearingen was sent to death row for the kidnapping, rape and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, a community college student in Montgomery County, just north of Houston. Trotter disappeared from campus on December 8, 1998. Her body was found on January 2, in the piney woods of the Sam Houston National Forest. She had been strangled, a section of pantyhose knotted around her neck.
Although more than three weeks had passed since she disappeared, police were certain from the beginning she was dead, and equally certain they’d found the man who had murdered her: Larry Swearingen, a 27-year-old married electrician who had been among the last to see Trotter alive. The two were acquaintances and had spoken on campus the day she disappeared. Police arrested Swearingen on unrelated outstanding warrants three days after Trotter’s disappearance; he has been behind bars ever since.
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