A death row inmate who argued that his conviction for rape and murder was based on “bad science” has been executed.
On Wednesday night, Larry Swearingen, 48, received a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the December 1998 killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.
She was last seen leaving her community college in Conroe, Texas, and her body was found nearly a month later in a forest near Huntsville, about 70 miles north of Houston.
Swearingen, who had always maintained his innocence in Trotter’s death, was the 12th inmate put to death this year in the US and the fourth in Texas.
Prosecutors said they stood behind the “mountain of evidence” used to convict Swearingen in 2000.
They described him as a sociopath with a criminal history of violence against women and said he tried to get a fellow death row inmate to take the blame for his crime.
“Lord, forgive them,” Swearingen said after the warden asked if he had a final statement. “They don’t know what they’re doing.”
Twelve minutes after the lethal dose began, Swearingen was pronounced dead.
Swearingen had long tried to cast doubt on the evidence used to convict him, particularly claims by prosecution experts that Trotter’s body had been in the woods for 25 days.
His long-time lawyer, James Rytting, said at least five defence experts concluded her body was there for no more than 14 days, and, because Swearingen had been arrested by then on outstanding traffic violations, he could not have left her body there.
Swearingen, who was also represented by the Innocence Project, had previously received five stays of execution.
He was put to death after the US Supreme Court rejected his final appeal, which focused on allegations prosecutors used “false and misleading testimony” related to blood evidence and a piece of pantyhose used to strangle Trotter.
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 were unsuccessful because his experts’ opinions did not “hold water”.
“I have absolutely zero doubt that anybody but Larry Swearingen killed ... Melissa Trotter,” he said.