Routier lawyers fire back at prosecution


Defense reasserts new evidence, seeks hearing before appeal decided


03/01/2003

By HOLLY BECKA / The Dallas Morning News

Lawyers for condemned child killer Darlie Routier filed court papers Friday reasserting that new fingerprint evidence proves the former Rowlett housewife was wrongfully convicted. They also asked for a new trial.

The defense lawyers were responding to a brief that prosecutors filed in January. The state argued then that Ms. Routier is the only person who could not be ruled out as having left a bloody fingerprint on a table near her slain sons.

New legal filings in the case began in July when her lawyers filed a 130-page writ of habeas corpus sometimes called a second appeal seeking to retest key evidence and asking for a new trial.

Friday's filing includes a 21-page chart that points out multiple factual or legal issues Ms. Routier's lawyers say are in dispute and warrant a hearing before her appeal is ultimately decided by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

They said prosecutors have not proved that Ms. Routier should be denied a hearing. They also requested access to evidence they have not been able to test. Prosecutors could not be reached for comment late Friday.

One of Ms. Routier's attorneys, J. Stephen Cooper of Dallas, said: "The goal was to clarify some of the issues the state misrepresented in their response and to produce some additional affidavits to crystallize the points we're trying to make regarding the fingerprint in particular and some of the legal arguments. The ultimate goal is getting her a new trial, but the state's whole response was that she wasn't even entitled to a hearing on all our issues."

Prosecutors previously filed a 400-page motion arguing that evidence presented at trial proves that Ms. Routier's conviction should stand. The motion also attacked the credibility of defense experts cited by Ms. Routier's lawyers.

Ms. Routier, 33, was convicted in 1997 of the capital murder of her 5-year-old son, Damon. His 6-year-old brother, Devon, also died in the June 1996 stabbing attack that Ms. Routier insists was the work of an intruder.

In their first filing and again Friday, Ms. Routier's lawyers said that her trial attorney had a conflict of interest; that prosecutors withheld evidence that would have changed the trial's outcome; that prosecutors used improper character-assassination evidence; and that the state's fingerprint expert gave erroneous testimony.

At trial, the state's expert said the print probably belonged to a child. But a forensic anthropologist has told Ms. Routier's attorneys that he thinks an adult probably left the bloody print, and a retired New York Police Department fingerprint examiner has said the print does not belong to Ms. Routier.

Prosecutors have the option of filing a response.

In the meantime, the Court of Criminal Appeals has given state District Judge Robert Francis six months to review all of the filings and decide whether Ms. Routier deserves a hearing in Dallas before the appeal proceeds.

If Judge Francis rules against a hearing, he could enter his official findings of fact in the case and recommend whether he thinks Ms. Routier deserves a new trial. That information would then be sent to the Court of Criminal Appeals for its ultimate decision.

E-mail hbecka@dallasnews.com