Prosecutors' brief says Routier doesn't deserve new trial

It says convicted killer's faulty transcript was appropriately corrected

02/27/2002

By HOLLY BECKA / The Dallas Morning News

Dallas County prosecutors filed court papers this week arguing that convicted killer Darlie Routier doesn't deserve a new trial and that her faulty court transcript was accurately corrected by legally acceptable standards.

The prosecutors' brief, made public Tuesday, responds to Ms. Routier's 14 claims of trial error, which her appellate attorneys filed in July with the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.

Ms. Routier's attorneys have the opportunity to file a written response, and then both sides will make oral arguments before the highest criminal court in Texas. It still could be months or even a year before the court rules on Ms. Routier's direct appeal, officials said.

Now on death row, Ms. Routier was a Rowlett homemaker when she was convicted of fatally stabbing her 5-year-old son, Damon, in June 1996. She was accused of killing 6-year-old Devon but was never tried for that slaying.

Ms. Routier has maintained her innocence, insisting that an intruder killed her sons and slashed her as they slept downstairs in front of the television. Her husband and the couple's baby, sleeping upstairs, were unharmed.

Ms. Routier's appeal was delayed for years by the faulty transcript, which prompted the appeals court to order the trial court to attempt to repair the record. A Dallas judge assigned court reporter Susan Simmons to fix the error-riddled work of original court reporter Sandra Halsey.

Ms. Routier's appeal argues that the new transcript is legally insufficient and inaccurate, noting 54 pages could not be certified.

Prosecutors argue in their brief that Ms. Simmons merely edited and corrected Ms. Halsey's work using her trial audiotapes and stenographic notes. They say steno notes exist on the 54 pages, which means the pages could be certified. The 54 pages are a "minute portion" of the more than 10,000-page transcript, they said.

"I think they misstated the facts in significant places and ignored several legal issues that were raised," said J. Stephen Cooper, one of Ms. Routier's appellate attorneys.

Ms. Routier's attorneys say the trial judge improperly handled her lead defense counsel's conflict of interest in representing Darin Routier her husband and the only other suspect in the crime. They contend that no record exists of whether the trial judge conducted a pivotal pretrial hearing after prosecutors filed a motion identifying Mr. Routier as a suspect.

Prosecutors argue that defense attorney Doug Mulder never had a conflict. They say he represented Mr. Routier only in a "tangential" gag order hearing.

Prosecutors note that Mr. Routier was never charged in the killings or identified as a possible suspect during his wife's trial. Mr. Routier maintains that neither he nor his wife committed the crime.

Prosecutors discount Ms. Routier's claim that a hearing on whether she waived any conflict is not found in the transcript and has been "lost."

Ms. Routier's attorneys say that the hearing is noted in a docket sheet and that attorneys are quoted later in the transcript talking about it. Prosecutors say the state's motion seeking such a hearing is no evidence of a missing hearing. They say the transcript reflects that Ms. Router waived any conflict of interest between Mr. Mulder and her husband.