Prosecutors assail Routier claims, criticize analyst


DA's office responds to legal filing that seeks retrial in child slayings


01/09/2003

By HOLLY BECKA / The Dallas Morning News

Dallas County prosecutors said in a legal filing Wednesday that convicted killer Darlie Routier is the only person who cannot be ruled out as having left a bloody fingerprint on a table near her slain sons.

Prosecutors also attacked the credibility of a forensic anthropologist who told Ms. Routier's attorneys that he thinks an adult probably left the bloody print.

Prosecutors made the assertions in their 400-page response to a legal filing Ms. Routier's attorneys submitted in July in hopes of winning a retrial. Ms. Routier's attorneys could file a response. Then a Dallas judge must decide whether hearings are necessary before recommending whether a new trial should be granted. He will then forward the case to the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin for its ruling.

AP
Darlie Routier      
Darlie Routier

Meanwhile, Ms. Routier's direct appeal, which focuses on transcript problems and allegations of trial error, is pending before the Court of Criminal Appeals.

Ms. Routier's filing in July focused on new information her attorneys found after her 1997 conviction and death sentence for the capital murder of 5-year-old Damon Routier. Six-year-old Devon also died in the June 1996 knife attack that Ms. Routier insists was the work of an intruder.

Prosecutor John Rolater Jr. wrote Wednesday that Ms. Routier did not prove her innocence and had undermined her claims that an intruder killed her children and attacked her in the family's Rowlett home.

Mr. Rolater said a fingerprint expert compared the bloody print with known prints of all paramedics, police, forensic technicians and others who were in the home after the murder.

Pat Wertheim, a Department of Public Safety latent print examiner from Arizona, then signed an affidavit stating: "All the ... people were excluded as the source of the latent print except the right ring finger of Darlie Lynn Routier. The latent could be neither excluded nor identified to that finger, and the comparison was deemed inconclusive."

J. Stephen Cooper, one of Ms. Routier's attorneys, said he doesn't give much credence to Mr. Wertheim's findings, saying the matter was a "battle of the experts."

"Aside from ... [the forensic anthropologist], no less than three other fingerprint experts have excluded Darlie as being a possible source," Mr. Cooper said.

Mr. Cooper said a bigger issue was that a state's expert told jurors at trial that the bloody print was of such poor quality, it could not be used to identify or exclude anyone.

"And now they're taking the position they've excluded a whole bunch of people but can't exclude Darlie, which I find convenient and highly contradictory of what they were telling the jury was true."

Prosecutors also filed an affidavit from Mr. Wertheim in which he accuses Ms. Routier's lawyers of misrepresenting testimony from the state's first fingerprint expert.

Responding to another defense allegation, prosecutor Toby Shook signed an affidavit saying he never knew before Ms. Routier's trial that a forensic analyst had been hospitalized for alcohol treatment and that he didn't think the man's drinking interfered with the analyst's work.

A psychiatrist prosecutors consulted before Ms. Routier's trial signed an affidavit stating he never told them whether Ms. Routier posed a future danger an issue a jury must decide before handing down a death sentence.

E-mail hbecka@dallasnews.com