Nine forensic experts say Swearingen is on death row for a murder he couldn’t have committed, yet Texas courts won’t grant a new trial.
The state’s evidence against 41-year-old Swearingen was compelling. Eyewitnesses claimed to have seen him with Melissa Trotter on the day she went missing, December 8th, 1998, from the Lone Star College-Montgomery campus in Conroe. The pair had been dating and Swearingen had been on the wrong side of the law before: His ex-girlfriend accused him of kidnapping her; he had admitted to stealing a truck; and fibers from Trotter’s clothing were found on the seat of his vehicle. After his arrest for Trotter’s murder, he penned a fake letter to investigators purporting to be from her real killer in the bizarre hope it would absolve him. (It didn’t; it just handed the state more evidence against him). And, most damning of all, investigators claimed they found half of Trotter’s panties on her body, which had been dumped in the Sam Houston National Forest, and the other half in a dumpster at the trailer park where Swearingen lived.
But now, 12 years since the trial, there are explanations for most, if not all, of this circumstantial evidence. Swearingen’s case is complicated, but the explanations make his plea for a retrial seem compelling.
Swearingen never agreed to a plea deal and has always maintained his innocence. He admits he was dating Trotter (in fact he says both of them were also dating other people), which accounts for her jacket fibers in his truck. Following his arraignment for Trotter’s murder, he claims that he tried to get his court-appointed lawyers to hire an investigator, but when they failed to do so, he made the peculiar decision to pen a fake letter from her would-be murderer in the hopes that it would spur his attorneys to change their minds.
Source: Texas Observer, November 27, 2012