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Editorial: In a civilized society, not even the most vicious crimes justify a death sentence

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It is soul-bruising to contemplate the torture that 10-year-old Anthony Avalos endured in his Lancaster home for more than a week before dying last year. Whippings with a looped cord and belt. Repeatedly held upside down then dropped on his head. Getting slammed into pieces of furniture and against the floor. Hot sauce poured on his face and mouth.
The road map of the abuse stretched from head to toe on his small malnourished body — bruises, abrasions, scabs and cuts visible on the outside. Traumatic brain injury and soft tissue damage on the inside. All allegedly perpetrated by his mother, Heather Barron, and her boyfriend, Kareem Leiva.
RELATED | California: Prosecutors seeking death penalty in Anthony Avalos torture case
If ever a set of circumstances called for the death penalty, this would be it. Few were surprised when Los Angeles County prosecutors said Wednesday that if the couple is convicted of the torture-murder, the jury will be asked to recommend a death sentence.
Such ca…

Court Again Denies DNA Tests in Swearingen Case

Larry Swearingen
Larry Swearingen
The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals for the second time Wednesday reversed a state district judge’s order that would have allowed East Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen to test DNA from evidence in his murder case.

Swearingen, 44, was convicted of kidnapping, raping and killing 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, then a Lone Star College student in 1998. 

He was sentenced to death in 2000. His execution date has been set and stayed multiple times.

The death row inmate has argued that he couldn’t have killed Trotter because he was in jail when she was murdered, and DNA testing would prove that someone else committed the crime. 

State District Judge Kelly Case twice granted Swearingen’s requests for evidence to be tested. 

Montgomery County prosecutors appealed each time, and now, the state’s highest criminal court has sided with the state again.

Each time, the court ultimately has ruled that results from DNA testing would not have overcome the “mountain of evidence” establishing Swearingen's guilt.

Source: Texas Tribune, Jonathan Silver, October 28, 2015

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