Friday, February 6, 2009


One of the lessons of the Goudge Inquiry was the ease with which innocent persons could be convicted of murder strictly on the basis of the pathological evidence on questions such as the time and cause of death - which all too often was wrong.

Many Canadians reacted in horror to the spectre of innocent parents put through the horror of being charged with murdering their own children because of faulty pathological evidence.

That sense of horror is compounded where there is the possibility that an innocent person is being executed by the state in circumstances where there are strong suggestions that the pathologists got it wrong.

The Larry Swearingen case is very much in point;

One of the four pathologists who take issue with the pathology evidence used to convict Larry Swearingen, has analysed the circumstantial and physical evidence also used to place Swearingen on Death Row;

Dr. Glenn Larkin's analysis has been published on the Texas Death Penalty Blog which is published by Texas Students Against the Death Penalty;

"Even the circumstantial evidence is raunchy, as well as some of the physical evidence," the analysis begins;

"1) The pubic hair found in the vaginal area:

This strongly suggests that intra-vaginal intercourse took place with the man who dropped the hair. It also means that this event --- consensual or not --- occurred AFT$R Trotter had her last shower or bath, presumably that morning.

Or if Trotter was alive for days after 8 December, it merely states that she was killed AFTER her last intercourse.

Trotter had a vaginal or cervical biopsy performed shortly before her death, and an area of red discoloration was misdiagnosed by Dr Carter as traumatic injury, implying rape. The alleged trauma was iatrogenic --- or surgically caused.

2) The "blood" found under one of Trotter's fingernails: This blood was tested for DNA and was not --- repeat not--- matched to Swearingen's DNA. The state p[roposed two equally preposterous theories;

2.1) One of the detectives at the scene cut himself shaving that morning, and the drop fell of his face, and flew UNDER Trotter's finger nail. For one thing, blood from
} a shaving "nick" would have dried, unless the detective had hemophilia or some
other coagulopathy. For another, how did that blood get UNDER the finger nail? There is an old medical aphorism that states, "When you hear hoof beats, think of
horses and not zebras (Common things are common; rare things are rare.).

2.2) The second theory, equally ludicrous, is that the blood cames from air dispersion through the morgue's air conditioner system. Curious, I am not aware of this unique source ever happening before, and I wounder if any other cadavers had been contaminated this way, especially the same day (January 3, 1999). How many autopsies ere performed at the same time as Trotters. Note that Trotter's autopsy was performed as the second of 1999, starting at 2:15 pm, with a gaggle of witnesses; that presupposes that either one or no autopsies were performed that day, and if one was performed, it could have been either before this autopsy, at the the same time, or after this one, which makes the air route of contamination most unlikely. The defense never questioned this probability because it did not come up at trial.

3) The pantyhose fragments:

3.1 As previously stated, a segment of pantyhose was found around Trotter's neck, damp, discolored, and knotted. It also was no doubt moved by the rodents that feasted on Trotter's larynx. This noose was removed in the proper manner, and photographed, but not measured properly (diameter has no meaning here).

3.2 A second fragment, containing the pelvic portion, and the attached leg portion was found in a dumpster at the traier park where Swearingen lived, and shared by the other tenants. Note that Swearingen's trailer was searched several times and the
pantyhose fragment was not found . If the dumpster was emptied between 8 December and 11 December, it would not contain the pantyhose fragment . If
the pantyhose was found in the dumpster after the last pickup, Swearingen could
not have placed it in the dumpster. This evidence therefo0re has a murky

3.2 It is not stated how the two fragments were "matched". If done my eye-ball, this is certainly subject to challenge --- being manipulated by rodents distorted the cut edge, and the moisture affected the elasticity, to cite a few problems, even if the class characteristic "matched". The class characteristics are not sufficient evidence for court.

4. "The last person to see her alive":

4. 1 Again, this is specious; while Swearingen did meet Trotter on campus, they were
and were dating off and on for weeks or months. Trotter relied on Swearingen to protect her from a probable former playmate, or playmate to be who was harassing and threatening her, as stated by several of her co-workers.

4.2 Since they were dating, it is no surprise that some of her head hairs were found in
Swearingen's truck. It cannot be determined WHEN those hairs got there. Likewise, there is evidence to support that Trotter did not visit Swearingen's trailer the day of her disappearance. He was entering and leaving alone, and Trotter was not with him, unless he sprinkled her with whiffle dust.

5. The last preposterous theory the state proposed is that Swearingen killed Trotter on December 8th, and stuck her body in a cooler. Then a friend dropped her in the forest while he was in the county jail.

5.1 There is no evidence to support this wild assumption on several accounts..

Freezing will stop decomposition completely, but when the body is thawed, deposition proceeds at an accelerated rate. This is because the ice crystals rupture the cell membranes, allowing all the cell juice to mix when thawed.

A cooled but not frozen body behaves like chopped meat; put a pound of raw hamburger in your refrigerator, and forget it for two weeks; your nose will then remind you. This scenario was used in a detective novel "Silent Witness" Robert Parker, but does not work in the real world.

There is still other evidence of a non-medico-legal nature better left to others; I believe that General Gregg Abbott Esq is putting his foot deeper into his mouth every time he speaks; he conveniently forgets that Swearingen only has to proffer PLAUSIBLE evidence of actual innocence to get a hearing; if what Swearingen has demonstrated in not plausible, nothing ever is. Mr Rytting has stated, "Swearingen is guilty by imagination."

I maintain that anything less than a pardon of innocence for Swearingen is a moral obscenity. G M Larkin MD Charlotte NC;