A death row inmate who claimed he was innocent and that his conviction for rape and murder was based on junk science has been executed in Texas.
Larry Swearingen was given a lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the December 1998 killing of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter.
The 48-year-old’s final words were “Lord forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing” – similar to the last words spoken by Jesus Christ in the Bible before he died on the cross.
Swearingen was convicted and sentenced to die in 2000 for the abduction, rape and murder of the Houston student.
Ms Trotter was last seen leaving her community college in Conroe and her body was found 25 days later in the Sam Houston National Forest.
Swearingen’s execution had been called off five times in the past two decades.
His lawyers urged the US Supreme Court to stop Wednesday’s execution, alleging prosecutors used “false and misleading testimony” related to blood evidence and the tights used to strangle the victim.
They argued the lower courts had not taken into account “the considerable amount of evidence of innocence”.
But prosecutors said Swearingen had a history of violence against women and that they stood behind the “mountain of evidence” used to convict him.
His sixth request for a stay of execution was denied by the Supreme Court.
During his trial, prosecutors built a case based on witness testimonies, mobile phone records and evidence found in his house and truck that they said linked him to the student’s death.
His lawyers pointed to DNA evidence found under the victim’s fingernails that came from a man other than Swearingen.
They also had experts testify that the state of the student’s body showed she must have died after Swearingen was in custody following his arrest on other charges.
Prosecutors said the DNA from another man could have come from contamination of evidence and that the victim was found in the same clothing she was seen wearing on the day she vanished, which they said undercut arguments that she died days later.
Half of the tights found around the student’s neck belonged to Swearingen’s wife, while the other half was found at his home, prosecutors said in court papers.
Swearingen is the 12th inmate to be executed in the US so far this year, according to the Death Penalty Information Centre.
He is the fourth person to be executed in 2019 in Texas – which has executed more prisoners than any other state since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in 1976.
Source: SKY NEWS