Will the U.S. Finally End the Death Penalty?

In the past, abolition efforts have faced a backlash—but Gavin Newsom’s moratorium may be different.
The American death penalty is extraordinarily fragile, with death sentences and executions on the decline. Public support for the death penalty has diminished. The practice is increasingly marginalized around the world. California, with its disproportionately large share of American death-row inmates, announces an end to the death penalty. The year? 1972. That’s when the California Supreme Court declared the death penalty inconsistent with the state’s constitutional prohibition of cruel or unusual punishments—only to have the death penalty restored a year later through popular initiative and legislation.
On Wednesday, again, California walked back its commitment to the death penalty. Though not full-fledged abolition, Governor Gavin Newsom declared a moratorium on capital punishment lasting as long as his tenure in office, insisting that the California death penalty has been an “abject…

After 21 Years on Death Row, Darlie Routier Still Says She's Innocent of Murdering Her Young Sons

Darlie Routier
Texas woman Darlie Routier has sat on death row for two decades now, ever since her 1997 conviction for the murder of one of her two slain children. Some think the case is open-and-shut, but others believe Routier has been framed for the grisly deaths of sons Devon, 6, and Damon, 5. Now, a new TV show called The Last Defense, executive produced by Viola Davis, will reinvestigate the events of June 6, 1996, in Rowlett, TX.

At 2 a.m. local time that night, Routier called 911, yelling, "They just stabbed me and my children." When first responders showed up to her house, they found the then-26-year-old wife and mother holding a towel to a stab wound on her neck. They also found Devon dead and Damon dying, both boys having sustained deep stab wounds to the chest. Routier told the cops she had woken up to find a man on top of her, but soon they grew suspicious.

"There were these inconsistencies with her story and physical evidence," Lt. David Nabors, head of the Rowlett Police Department's Criminal Investigations Division, told the Rowlett Lakeshore Times in 2016. "You collect the physical evidence and it's either going to prove or disprove her story."

For one, the bread knife used to cut an opening in the patio screen and the butcher knife used in the stabbings both came from the knife block in the kitchen, Nabors explained. "If the bread knife was used to cut the screen, somebody had to come in, get the bread knife, cut the screen, put it back in the knife block, and then get another knife to commit the murders," he said.

Additionally, the blood evidence — including Damon's and Devon's blood on her shirt — suggested she was holding the knife and she wasn't cut on the couch. "She's laying on the couch and gets her throat cut, [but] there's no cast-off on the couch where she said she was cut," Nabors said. "None, not even blood drops."

Routier claimed she chased her attacker out of the house, but the blood stains on the floor were passive, not indicative of any fast action like running or chasing. Instead, Nabors said, the blood drops showed Routier was walking through the scene. Additionally, investigators found the kitchen sink was used in a cleanup, with traces of blood in and around the sink.

Finally, Routier was a light sleeper, according to her husband, Darin — and that fact seemingly contradicts her version of events. "One of the problems we had was, one of the children was at the foot of the couch where she was sleeping," Nabors said. "The other one was perpendicular to that within three feet of her, but somebody came in the house stabbed both children and then attacked her but she slept through it. That was another inconsistency in her story."

The investigators pursued multiple leads but eventually concluded it was an inside job, pegging Routier as the prime suspect. "The evidence kept pointing back to someone in the house," Nabors said. "The evidence kept pointing back to her and her inconsistencies in her statements."

According to Nabors, Routier showed no emotion in the two weeks before her arrest. But she cried when she was arrested. She was charged and convicted of capital murder for the death of Damon, and she was sentenced to death by lethal injection.

"It's very tragic, a five- and six-year-old murdered and their mom was convicted of it," Nabors said. "It definitely hits a nerve with people. Some don't want to believe that a mother is capable of doing that."

Meanwhile, as Rolling Stone reports, Routier's supporters claim the police staged the crime scene and prosecutors misconstrued her frame of mind. Additionally, in 2002, a forensic anthropologist found a bloody fingerprint found on a glass table didn't match anyone in the Routier family or anyone involved in the investigation.

These days, as she awaits further DNA testing as part of her appeal, Routier is still on death row in Gatesville, TX. Her mother, Darlie Kee, says Routier is still positive and sure the truth will come out: "She's innocent and that's all that matters."

But the Roulette Police Department is "totally comfortable with the sentence and the trial," Nabors said. He added, "If it wasn't a solid case she wouldn't be sitting where she's at."

Now the case is getting another examination in The Last Defense, along with the case of Julius Jones, another convicted murderer who maintains his innocence. 

"The seven-episode docu-series explores and exposes flaws in the American justice system through emotional, in-depth examinations of the death row cases of Darlie Routier and Julius Jones," ABC says in a press release. 

"The series will seek to trace the path that led both Routier and Jones to their places on death row while taking a deep look into their personal stories … [After] 20 years on death row in Texas, the contentious debate over the fairness of [Routier's] trial is more polarized than ever."

Source: In Touch, Dan Clarendon, June 11, 2018

Review: ‘The Last Defense’ Aims to Open Once-Shut Cases

Damon, Darlie and Devon Routier
For four seasons, Viola Davis has starred for ABC in “How to Get Away With Murder.” Her new series for the network, “The Last Defense,” might well be called “How to Get Convicted of Murder.”

The seven-part documentary, starting Tuesday, reargues cases of two prisoners awaiting execution. It begins with Ms. Davis (one of several executive producers) saying in a voice-over that every year an average of five prisoners on death row are exonerated.

“The Last Defense” may or may not add to that number. But it offers a powerful argument that people can be convicted as much by emotion and prejudice as by evidence.

The first four episodes re-examine the 1997 murder conviction of Darlie Routier, a Texas woman whose two young sons were stabbed to death.

Ms. Routier called in the killing to 911, saying that an intruder had attacked her and the boys while they slept. (We hear the excruciating audio several times.) Though Ms. Routier was herself wounded badly, including a life-threatening slash to the throat, prosecutors soon charged her.

Experts for the prosecution argued that Ms. Routier’s knife wounds were self-inflicted and that blood spatter and broken glass found at the crime scene was inconsistent with her account.

The documentary also notes a significant exculpatory piece of evidence — a sock, stained with both boys’ blood, found down an alley from the house. “The Last Defense” suggests that investigators minimized it because they were already invested in Ms. Routier as a suspect.

But the most powerful part of the case against Ms. Routier — and the most disturbing, in the retelling — was an all-out character attack. Prosecutors painted her as a materialistic, “self-centered” woman for whom children were “an impediment to the good life.”

The context of her trial, points out the author Kathy Cruz, was the nationally publicized case of Susan Smith, a South Carolina woman convicted in 1995 for drowning her two sons. Ms. Routier was treated after that template as a mom who “snapped.”

The prosecution attacked Ms. Routier for spending on jewelry, for playing Coolio’s “Gangsta’s Paradise” (the boys’ favorite song, their father says) at their funeral, for having had breast-augmentation surgery. “Who goes out and spends $2,000 on a set of breasts?” one juror says.

The strategy worked. A key element was a video Ms. Routier, friends and family celebrating what would have been one son’s seventh birthday with a graveside “party,” where they brought balloons and sprayed Silly String. The prosecution cast it as a desecration. The jurors replayed the video nine times.

“The Last Defense” is plainly a work of advocacy. But it’s sensitive to the drive for justice. It’s hard not to see the home-video footage of Ms. Routier’s sons, the blood stains on the Power Rangers bedsheets, and not want someone to be punished. “The Last Defense” questions whether that desire can overwhelm the evidence.

The last three episodes cover the case of Julius Jones, an Oklahoma college student sentenced to death at 21 in a carjacking murder. The series suggests a theory that Mr. Jones may have been set up for the crime by an acquaintance and examines the potential role of racism in his trial: an African-American man accused of killing a white man in the suburbs.

The episodes also tell a more depressingly familiar story: that Mr. Jones, regardless of his innocence or guilt, did not receive close to the best possible defense from the public defenders who represented him and that the system rigidly resists admitting any possible mistakes.

“The Last Defense” comes amid a recent boom in true crime, including Netflix’s “Making a Murderer” and its expansion of the 2004 documentary “The Staircase,” as well as HBO’s “The Jinx” and the podcast “Serial.”

“Defense” is more straightforward than some of these contemporaries, which are often produced as literary tales about character and the fluidity of narrative. It doesn’t have the wealth of original video available to Netflix’s “Wild Wild Country” (instead, it often relies on re-creations); it doesn’t offer the breathtaking twists that the makers of “The Jinx” or “The Staircase” lucked into.

What “The Last Defense” does have is a clarity of moral purpose. Whether or not you find its arguments in these specific cases exonerating, it makes a disturbing argument about the potential for error in capital cases.

For decades, TV legal procedurals have offered audiences the promise of certainty. They frame legal cases as puzzles that the police and prosecutors shape into a definitive picture. This portrayal has served law enforcement — “Dragnet,” for instance, was partly the result of police public relations efforts — and it arguably has shaped the attitudes of audiences, both in the living room and the jury box.

Like some of its true-crime predecessors, “The Last Defense” is a kind of anti-procedural. It asks the audience instead to confront uncertainty and to ask how willing we are to accept that in real nonscripted life the system can get the answer wrong.

Source: The New York Times, James Poniewozik, June 11, 2018

Darlie Routier is on death row but did she really kill her children?

The murder weapon, a knife taken from the kitchenThis article was published in July 2015.

THE facts of this case are truly horrifying. Two small boys knifed to death by their mother. But is she really guilty or has there been a horrible mistake?

IT is the worst possible thing a mother could be accused of. And Darlie Routier — wife, mother, convicted child murderer — may pay for it with her life.

Routier’s path to her death row jail cell began on June 6, 1996 when her two oldest sons, six-year-old Devon and five-year-old Damon, were stabbed to death in the family’s home in the Dallas, Texas, suburb of Rowlett.

Yet despite a trial, a, conviction and circumstantial evidence piling up against her, many still believe the 45-year-old is innocent and are desperate to stop her being put to death.

Supporters are working hard to seek a retrial but so far none has been granted. And she remains on death row in a Texas jail.

Just this week a new series on the case aired in the US and recently new forensic testing was ordered on key items of evidence.

Could a grieving mother really be locked away on death row waiting to die? Or is this a case of an evil woman who stabbed her own children to death as they slept? And if she is innocent, why is a double murderer be allowed to slip through police’s fingers.


The Routier family living room was transformed from a comfortable haven into a bloody murder scene on June 6, 1996. She had been sleeping in the living room with the two boys on mattresses on the floor, after they’d watched a movie together.

Upstairs asleep was her husband Darin and their seven-month old baby Drake. She’d told her husband the baby kept her awake the night before so she would sleep downstairs that night.

At 2.30am he woke to Routier’s screaming.

Darlie’s account is she woke to Damon calling. “Mommy, Mommy.” She claims to have seen a dark figure running out the door. When she turned on the light she saw the blood and a knife laying on the floor.

Darin rushed downstairs and saw the carnage, Devon was dead, lying on his back with his eyes open. Damon was rushed to hospital but couldn’t be saved.

Darlie didn’t escape injury either. She was covered in blood and had a massive gash from one side of her neck to the other that missed her carotid artery by just millimetres — it is widely thought a necklace she had on at the time saved her life. It was pressed so deeply into her throat it had to be surgically removed but stopped the blade from knocking the artery.

Would someone really have done that to themselves?


The window screen had been cut in the garage but there was no one else inside the house.

It’s here where investigators — and ultimately a jury — began to have trouble with her story.

She assumes she struggled with the killer; but can’t remember exactly. And police straight away

began to suspect something wasn’t right.

• The window screen had been cut awkwardly so it would be hard for an intruder to climb in

• Jewellery on the kitchen bench was ignored by the killer

• The killer obtained the knife from the kitchen, usually they would bring a weapon with them.

• Routier made a point about mentioning her prints were on the knife

• She couldn’t give a description of the attacker, despite being face to face with him

• She didn’t ask about her children when she emerged from surgery

• There was evidence of blood being cleaned up in the sink and kitchen.

Then there was Routier’s own behaviour. Within days of the stabbings local television news aired footage of her at the boys graves smiling and laughing to celebrate Devon’s seventh birthday.

As one investigator bluntly put it: “Here was a woman who’d just lost her children and she was literally dancing on their graves.”

Police admitted there wasn’t a single piece of evidence to pin the shocking murders on her. Despite that, they were convinced of her guilt when they pulled all the suspicious circumstances together.


The major evidence to support Router’s theory was a bloodstained sock belonging to one of the boys that was discovered in alleyway about 70m away.

She argued it was proof that someone else — i.e. the intruder — dropped the sock as they run away after the stabbings.

But prosecutors rejected the idea and insisted it was planted by Routier in case police were suspicious of her.


A major part of the prosecution case was picking holes in Routier’s story. The problem for her legal team was she changed her story several times, including in the days after the killings.

One of the changes was where she was when she saw the “intruder” running away and where she found the knife.

“It was a bloodbath. And when a crime like that happens, it’s someone in the house that did this,” the assistant district attorney Toby Shook told CNN.

The 911 phone call was also damning. Just seconds after telling them, “they just stabbed me and my kids ... my little boys” she turned her attention to the possibility of prints on the weapon.

“God ... I bet if we could have gotten the prints maybe,” she said. It jarred with police and the jury.

A lack of obvious motive is normally fatal to a prosecution case. Except in a very small number of cases, such brutal murders are almost never committed simply for the killers enjoyment — so called thrill kills.

In court, a theory was advanced that she was a materialistic woman under increasing financial pressure who believed the children were preventing her from enjoying the lifestyle she enjoyed.

The jury deliberated for just eight hours, a very small amount of time for such a serious trial.

Also problematic for her was blood splatter analysis. Experts testified the blood patterns indicated she was the stabber, and the fact her wounds could have been self-inflicted.

She was found guilty and on February 1, 1997, she was sentenced to death by lethal injection.


Lawyers who took on her case believe the jury got a slanted view of Routier. For instance, the footage of her smiling and celebrating at the grave side came immediately after a sombre two hour memorial service.

Then there is Darin Routier, the husband.

Lawyer Stephen Cooper argued Darin wasn’t investigated thoroughly enough. After all, he later admitted to insurance fraud and a plan to stage a home robbery.

If his wife had of died from her injuries he would have pocketed $250,000. To add to the confusing picture, Mr Routier later failed a polygraph test organised by a wealthy businessman.

And that bloody sock.

Mr Cooper believes it wasn’t possible for her to have stabbed the boys, ran the 100m to hid the sock, return to the house and cut the window screen, before inflicting her own wounds.

Furthermore, in Dateline Purgatory, Kathy Cruz maintains tunnel visioned police officers unprepared for such a massive crime, combined with the actions of a few in the legal system created a “perfect storm” that led to her conviction.

So far though, their concerns have fallen on deaf ears.


For now, Darlie Routier is left to wait in her nine-foot by six foot cell for her appeal to move forward. Last year fresh DNA testing was granted on several objects from the home she hopes will point conclusively to someone else being the killer.

Even though he says he still loves her, and believes she is innocent, Darin divorced her in 2011.

Source: news.com.au, Andrew Koubaridis, July 16, 2015

‘I did not kill my babies’

Darlier Routier
City native's murder conviction, appeal featured in docu-series

When Altoona native Darlie Lynn Routier was convicted by a Texas jury in February 1997 of stabbing to death her young son, Damon, 5, and by implication, her other son, Devon, 6, she reportedly cried out, “I did not kill my babies.”

Both boys were murdered on June 6, 1996, as they were sleeping with their mother in the downstairs television room of the family’s Rowlett, Texas, home, while her husband, Darin, was in an upstairs bedroom with their 18-month-old son Drake.

Routier, then in her 20s, also suffered grievous injuries that night, including a badly bruised arm and stab wounds to her neck, which came within 2 millimeters of slicing a carotid artery, an injury that could have killed her within minutes.

She said she fought an intruder and after he allegedly fled through a cut screen in the home’s utility room, she and Darin, who was awakened by the noise and came downstairs, took steps to quell the bleeding of their two children, and call 911.

When EMTs and police arrived, the older boy was dead on the floor while Damon was alive. He died on the way to Baylor Hospital in Dallas.

Darlie Routier described the intruder as a man with long hair, wearing a baseball hat, a dark T-shirt and jeans.

On the scene that night was a veteran but retired Rowlett police officer, James Cron who, after only 25-30 minutes, was convinced there was no intruder and that the murders were an inside job. He concluded Darlie Routier had staged the scene, including her own injuries.

The family room was a mess, with blood on the floors and furniture, and broken glass from wine glasses and other evidence scattered about.

When Cron was asked at trial why he debunked the story of the intruder, he answered, “It’s sort of a big picture. It’s not any one thing. It was the overall scene which, primarily, is the lack of evidence in many cases. But the entire scene indicated to me there had not been an intruder.”

Within days, Routier was charged only with Damon’s death and the case went to trial within seven months.

Two days later, on Feb. 3, 1997, the jury recommended that Routier be put to death, and since that time, she has remained on death row in a state where the death penalty is often carried to conclusion for both men and women.

For the past 22 years, Routier has maintained she didn’t commit the murders.

She and her mother, Darlie Kee, formerly of Altoona, have proclaimed Routier’s innocence through newspapers, books and several TV documentaries.

Aided by a team of lawyers at her side, the mother-daughter pair have challenged the verdict in both the state and federal courts.

Despite the passage of time, the Routier case continues to gain national attention and will be the premiere case in a new series called “The Last Defense,” which will air on ABC Television Network beginning at 10 p.m. Tuesday.

The seven-week docu-series explores the flaws in the American justice system through the Routier case and that of another death row inmate, Julius Jones, who was convicted of a car-jacking murder in Oklahoma.

Jones, too, maintains his innocence.

Actress Viola Davis is the executive producer with Julius Tennon.

Tuesday’s first episode will feature Darin Routier relating the events of June 6, 1996, as police conducted their investigation.

The murders of Damon and Devon occurred 22 years ago this past week, but Routier’s mother, Kee, still has hope that she will one day see her daughter a free woman.

“The upcoming four-part series (devoted to the Routier case) will expose the mistakes and how, now, she (Darlie) is still 100 percent innocent,” Kee stated when contacted this week.

Attorney Richard A. Smith of Dallas, who has been involved in the defense since 2002, said he is looking forward to the docu-series. He said he was interviewed for it.

He said he believes Darin, although divorced from Darlie, still supports her claim of innocence, and he reported that Drake, the 18-month old in the upstairs bedroom that night, is now an adult who was treated for leukemia. The disease is now in remission, he said.

A flawed trial?

While the investigation quickly led to an arrest, much of the story of the Routier case lies with what has happened since.

According to the defense lawyers in their federal filing, Routier did not have proper legal representation, and the defense did not counter scientific evidence that allegedly linked Routier to the crime, due to a her lawyer’s conflict of interest.

In addition, the prosecution used “character assassination” to turn the jury against Routier, the prosecutor’s opening statement said, contending: “The real Darlie Routier is, in fact, a self-centered woman, a materialistic woman, and a woman cold enough, in fact, to murder her own two children.”

The prosecution presented a friend who stated Routier had a temper, and had become materialistic over the years as her husband’s computer business allowed the couple to live in an expensive home and purchase a boat and a Jaguar.

The couple’s extensive buying coupled with a business downtown led to money troubles the Routiers were experiencing at the time of the killings.

The prosecution presented the jury with video of Darlie shooting silly string and laughing during a graveside celebration of Devon’s seventh birthday just prior to her arrest.

What the jury never found out was that a sister organized the graveside party and brought the silly string, and that there was an ensuing prayer service followed by a quiet family gathering, the defense claims.

She was criticized for going to a woman’s night out at a Dallas nightclub on Mother’s Day eve.

A doctor and two nurses who treated Routier while in the Baylor Hospital were allowed to testify that Routier did not act typically for a woman who had just lost two children.

The doctor said she did not become hysterical but had a “flat effect.”

A nurse supervisor said she was withdrawn and didn’t cry very often and told the jury this was “not the emotions that you usually see with a mother.”

A nurse testified that Routier did not display the emotions she had witnessed in people who had lost loved ones or close relatives.

This impermissible character evidence and “expert testimony” from the medical personnel “so infected Ms. Routier’s trial as to undermine the confidence in the verdict,” her lawyers stated.

Lawyers replaced

In the beginning, Routier was represented by attorneys Douglas Parks and Wayne Huff, who retained two forensic scientists and who were prepared to counter prosecution theories about how the blood spatter, broken wine glasses, a bread knife found at the scene and an overturned sweeper rebutted Routier’s story that an intruder had murdered the children.

The forensic scientists, Terry Labor and Barton Epstein, disagreed that blood on the back of Routier’s nightgown came from the knife spatter as she allegedly raised and lowered her arm while stabbing the children.

They noted only “minimal areas of spatter” on the nightgown — which had never been tested.

However, the two court-appointed attorneys were eventually replaced by attorney Douglas Mulder and several others, who, according to the federal appeal, did not use the forensic scientists to counter the scientific evidence presented by the prosecution.

Mulder, it is contended, also agreed not to attempt to implicate Darin as a suspect in the murders of the two children. The present defense team pointed out that Mulder had represented Darin in the past and thus was conflicted in his representation of Darlie.

Another issue the defense raises is the fact that the court reporter for the case had personal problems during the trial and that an investigation found 30,000 errors in the transcripts that had to be corrected.

The defense in its quest to overturn Routier’s verdict summed up its case in its federal petition, stating that the jury that convicted Darlie for Damon’s murder “never heard substantial evidence that undermines the state’s circumstantial case against her and supports her claim of innocence.

“And the jury never heard a key alternate explanation for the crimes because Mulder had agreed as a condition of retention by Darlie’s counsel to protect a more plausible suspect, her husband, at the expense of Darlie’s own defense.

The defense wants the verdict overturned “because no court can have confidence in such a fundamentally tainted verdict,” it concluded.

Appeal moving slowly through the courts

Over the years, Routier’s challenges in the courts have moved glacially slow, awaiting the outcome of DNA tests on the blood evidence from the rugs, Routier’s nightgown, on a pair of socks found 70 yards away in the neighborhood, and several mysterious, unidentified fingerprints.

Routier’s federal challenge filed in the U.S. District Court for West Texas in San Antonio begins, “Darlie Lynn Routier sits on Texas death row for a crime she did not commit.”

That filing has been on hold for more than a decade, pending the outcome of her state post-conviction challenge.

The federal court requires that a status update on the DNA testing be submitted every six months.

The status report submitted just a year ago, on June 19, 2017, made it clear the Routier case falls low on the state’s priority list. It read:

“In May 2017, counsel in the Dallas County District Attorney (office) learned the materials that were supposed to have been transported to the Department of Public Safety for DNA testing, as the state trial court’s testing order had required, had never been transported to DPS.”

That error has since been rectified, and according to defense attorney Smith, the DNA testing is in its last stage.

He said he didn’t want to discuss results so far but said the testing is important in the overall picture and will enable the defense to determine its strategy during the pending state court hearings.

Source: Altoona Mirror, Phil Ray, June 11, 2018

Five controversial moments in the case that sent Darlie Routier to death row for her son's murder

Darlier Routier
Darlie Routier was convicted and sentenced to die for fatally stabbing her 5-year-old son Damon in June 1996. More than 2 decades later, the Rowlett woman remains in prison - 1 of only 6 women on Texas' death row.

Devon, 6, was also slain, but Routier was convicted of only 1 murder because prosecutors decided to ensure the option to pursue a 2nd indictment if the 1st trial didn't net a lasting conviction.

Routier has maintained an intruder broke in while she slept and killed her sons before she chased him away. She said she could not remember much of what happened that night, and a psychiatrist for the defense said she was a victim of "traumatic amnesia."

But prosecutors called that a convenient excuse and argued Routier killed her children because they interfered with the life she wanted to live.

On Tuesday at 9 p.m., ABC aired the 1st episode of The Last Defense, a 7-part documentary series that focuses on the death row cases of Routier and Oklahoma man Julius Jones.

Viola Davis and Julius Tennon are the executive producers of the series, which the network says "explores and exposes flaws in the American justice system."

Following is a look at 5 moments that helped define the Routier investigation, trial and the aftermath of her conviction:

The 911 Call

During Routier's death-penalty trial, jurors heard a 6-minute 911 call from the night of the attack. Prosecutors said the call supported what officers said about Routier's behavior, but the defense said the recording showed she was traumatized and distracted by the chaos in her home. They argued Routier should not be held accountable for what she said or did during that time.

In the recording, Routier tells the dispatcher that she touched the knife, the suspected murder weapon, and added, "I wonder if we could have gotten the prints maybe."

She mentions her husband ran downstairs but doesn't ask about their infant son, Drake.

Officers testified that Routier was upset and screaming, but didn't appear to be in shock and seemed very alert. One officer said he told Routier to apply pressure to the stab wounds on Damon's back as he gasped for breath, but instead, she did nothing.

"I thought if she was worried about fingerprints on a knife, she could certainly take care of her kids," Officer David Waddell said during the trial.

He added that she did not follow paramedics when they carried Damon to an ambulance and did not ask where they were taking him.

Bloody evidence and the garage escape

Over and over, Routier, who was 26 at the time of her sons' murders, said a man wearing dark clothes and a baseball cap attacked the boys, then her, before escaping through the garage.

But investigators said evidence at the scene was inconsistent with Routier's account.

Investigators found no blood in the garage or on the garage window or wooden fence surrounding the backyard. The window sills in the garage had layers of dust, and the mulch in the flower beds between the garage and the backyard gate was undisturbed, an arrest warrant stated.

Lab tests did find fingerprints on the garage window that did not belong to Routier, her husband or law enforcement, but it's unclear who left them.

Routier said she found the knife on the floor in the utility room, but investigators didn't find any blood splatter or other marks that would have indicated the knife was dropped there.

Blood was found near the kitchen sink, but no appreciable amount on the couch where Routier said she had been stabbed. There had been attempts to clean the countertop and sink before police arrived, and police suggested that she may have inflicted the wounds herself, the affidavit stated.

Police said a bloody sock was found on the grass several houses down. Routier's relatives cited it as evidence that someone else killed the boys, and the defense said there was no way Routier would have had time to stage the crime scene.

Much debate also centered around a bloody fingerprint on the coffee table near her son's body. Part of her appeal centered on the print belonging to an adult, not one of Routier's slain children.

The print was never compared to the children's fingers because morgue workers did not take the children's prints, which is usually standard procedure.

In 2008, a federal judge granted additional testing of the sock, a butcher knife, the fibers from another knife and gave permission to run four fingerprints through a national database. The DNA was submitted last year for testing, but there have been no other recent updates.

The Silly String video

Days after the boys' deaths, the Routiers held a graveside birthday party for Devon on what would have been his 7th birthday.

They sprayed Silly String on the grave and sang "Happy Birthday." KXAS-TV (NBC5) recorded the celebration and interviewed the couple who said they had nothing to hide.

Routier was arrested four days later and charged with capital murder.

The NBC5 footage of the Silly String and a smiling Routier was shown during the trial. Prosecutors said her behavior at her children's graves showed a lack of grief and remorse.

Defense attorneys said the tape showed a family trying to cope with grief.

It was not the only time jurors heard statements about Routier's lack of remorse.

An emergency room doctor testified that the mother seemed emotionless when he tended to the knife wounds to her neck, shoulder and forearm. Dr. Alex Santos called the wounds "superficial," but agreed that they came millimeters from cutting her carotid artery.

A nurse's note, however, described Routier as "very emotional, crying, sobbing and talking about events in her family."

The gravesite recording

During Routier's trial, a detective testified that investigators hid microphones near the boys' graves in Rockwall before Devon's birthday in the hopes that someone might make a confession that would lead police to the killer.

In 1997, after an FBI investigation, U.S. Attorney Paul E. Coggins announced that the Rowlett Police Department would not face federal charges for planting the hidden microphones.

Attorneys and others questioned the legality of the move.

The investigation determined that the decision was based on legal advice indicating the technique was lawful.

In June 1998, Routier's mother and husband filed a lawsuit accusing the police detectives and a prosecutor of invading their privacy. The suit was later dismissed.

The trial transcript

Court transcript problems became central to Routier's appeal, which was delayed because of the issues.

Following the trial, one of Routier's attorneys found errors in the transcript, which was needed for an appeal. Court reporter Sandra Halsey refused to answer questions, and a state district judge ordered a review.

In 1999, a complaint filed with the state board alleged that Halsey's work was "incompetent, inaccurate, unprofessional and untimely" and that she lied to hide mistakes.

She was ordered to pay $32,265 for the cost of getting the transcript fixed and had her license revoked.

A 2nd court reporter who was appointed to reconstruct portions of the transcript using Halsey's audio recordings, stenographer's notes and the original transcript, said the 1st version contained 18,000 errors.

She also had to make a new version of 53 pages of the transcript detailing pretrial issues and preliminary jury selection using stenographic notes rather than audio recordings after Halsey reportedly could not find the tape.

Finally, in November 1999 a judge approved the revised transcript. Routier's team filed an appeal in 2001, but in 2003 the Court of Criminal Appeals rejected Routier's claims and upheld her conviction.

Source: Dallas Morning News, June 13, 2018

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