Strange twist in Texas murder case
surfaces on death row, delaying execution
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[October 23, 2017]
By Jon Herskovitz
AUSTIN, Texas (Reuters) - Texas inmate
Larry Swearingen, who has been sitting on death row for 17 years, may
have been plotting to avoid his date with the execution chamber in
November by having a serial murderer take the fall for his crime,
according to a county prosecutor.
But an attorney for Swearingen denies such a plot exists with a second
death-row inmate, Anthony Shore, and Shore has not tried to take the rap
for Swearingen's convictions. The attorney said over the weekend that
the county prosecution's collusion accusation is false and part of a
series of blunders in a faulty prosecution.
For Shore, with five murder convictions, admitting to one more killing
would not change his death sentence. But for Swearingen, such a
confession could spare his life.
The questions about a confession led a state court to call for the
postponement of Shore's planned Oct. 18 execution a few hours before his
scheduled lethal injection until authorities can determine the facts.
Swearingen was convicted of raping and strangling Melissa Trotter, a
19-year-old college student, with pantyhose in 1998 in an area north of
Houston in a crime similar to murders that Shore has been convicted of
Shore has never said that he killed Trotter, which could take Swearingen
off the hook. But the Montgomery County District Attorney's office said
it believes the two death row inmates are perpetrating a fraud upon the
criminal justice system.
Dubbed the "tourniquet killer," Shore was known for using tourniquets to
torture and strangle five girls and young women in the Houston area in
the 1980s and 1990s.
A folder containing information about the murder for which Swearingen
had been convicted was found in Shore's cell in July, prosecutors said.
It contained court crime scene photographs of the Trotter murder, court
exhibits and a hand-drawn map where Trotter's body was found,
prosecutors in Montgomery County, north of Houston, told Texas Governor
Greg Abbott in an Oct. 16 letter.
District Attorney Brett Ligon said in the letter his office had evidence
that Shore would take blame for the Trotter murder and falsely claim
"We remain absolutely certain of Swearingen's guilt of Melissa Trotter's
murder," Ligon said.
[to top of second column]
Anthony Shore, 55, convicted of raping and murdering five children
and young women, using a tourniquet to torture and strangle his
victims, is seen in this undated Texas Department of Criminal
Justice photo in Huntsville, Texas, U.S.. Texas Department of
Criminal Justice/Handout via REUTERS
On the day of Shore's execution, however, no such claim had been
made and his court-appointed attorney said the allegations of a
scheme to confess to the Trotter murder were unfounded.
"Mr. Shore was not responsible in any shape or form with the Melissa
Trotter homicide and any documents found in his jail cell related to
the homicide were either given to him by Mr. Swearingen or openly
attainable through public sources," K. Knox Nunnally said in a
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which is investigating the
case, said death row inmates are in single cells and do not have
physical interaction. But they can talk to each other from their
cells or when they are in recreation areas near one another.
Lawyers for Swearingen for years have said he is innocent and that
they have experts who can show he could not have taken part in the
murder. The lawyers have argued there were serious flaws in his
prosecution and no physical evidence tying him to the murder.
James Rytting, an attorney for Swearingen, said there was no
collusion with Shore and dismissed the allegation from prosecutors.
"As far as I am concerned, they have bamboozled their way through
this," Rytting said in a telephone interview.
(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Dan Grebler)
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