Routier case sent to appellate court
Darlie Routier's case was sent to the
Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Thursday, after a state district judge
canceled a hearing last Friday that would have continued determining the
validity of a reconstructed transcript of her trial.
Criminal District Judge Robert Francis issued a ruling saying that no further hearings were needed to meet the requirements needed to appeal the case and remanded the case to the appellate court. The ruling ends local proceedings on the case, unless Routier's attorneys are able to get the appeals court to send the case back before Francis for further hearings. The appellate court will have to determine if the reconstructed transcript is legal for an appeal of the case. Routier's objections to the transcript were not overruled in Francis' order, but were sent on to be reviewed by the appellate court.
"The court finds that any additional evidentiary hearing is not necessary to comply with the orders of the Court of Criminal Appeals," Francis wrote in a two-page court order. "The court finds that the Court of Criminal Appeals directing this court to ensure that the record conforms to the record conforms to what occurred at trial have been completed with, and this court incorporates all prior findings and orders previously issued by this court."
Francis could not be reached for comment.
Routier was convicted for the 1996 stabbing death of her 5-year-old son, Damon. Her 6-year-old son, Devon, also was killed in the stabbing attack in the Routiers' former home in Rowlett. Her lawyers are attempting to get her a new trial as Routier sits on death row.
Attorneys on both sides were surprised at the ruling after months of hearings to resolve discrepancies in the transcript. In February, an expert court reporter in a Dallas district court refused to certify a portion of the 1997 transcript. An audio tape of the trial also turned up missing and the court reporter testified 33,000 errors were in the original transcript.
Throughout the four-year legal battle for her freedom, Routier's family, including her husband Darin, have maintained her innocence in the crime. Darin, who now lives in Plano, said the judge should have made the determination himself about the court transcript and should not have sent the case on to appeals without a completely accurate transcript.
"If you want to say that the system works, then that means that she has a right to an appeal," he said. "And if she has the right to an appeal, according to the law, she has the right to an accurate and complete record. And Judge Francis doesn't care if we get that or not."
Prosecutors believe the reconstructed transcript contains no major discrepancies or errors now and doesn't leave out any main facts in the case. Lead prosecutor Greg Davis said the judge made the right decision to send the case on to the appellate court.
"I'm pleased that this case is going to go to Austin before the Court of Criminal Appeals so we can get this done," he said.
Routier's attorney Stephen Cooper wasn't pleased with the cancellation of the hearing. Charles Linch, a witness scheduled to appear at the hearing with Francis' permission, was being flown to Dallas for the hearing, at taxpayers' expense, when it was canceled.
"I'm outraged and disgusted," Cooper said. "There is absolutely no logic to it. (Francis) scheduled the hearing. He issued subpoenas to out-of-state witnesses at a cost to taxpayers of about $1,500."
Cooper expected to have a motion filed with the Court of Criminal Appeals next week, asking for the case to be sent back to Francis for another hearing on the transcript.
The two attorneys also differed on the opinion of C. Lohnes Sr., a retired detective and fingerprint expert, who said last week that a bloody fingerprint found on the Routiers' coffee table could not have been left by Devon. Routier's attorneys argue that this is an important piece of evidence that points to an intruder from outside of the house.
During the trial, the fingerprint could not be compared to those of the two boys because investigators did not take the boys' prints during their original investigation. However, family members recently found a set of fingerprints for Devon taken as part of a school safety program. Lohnes said the print ruled out Darin, Darlie and Devon. However, there are no similar prints for Damon that can be matched.
Davis, however, believes the fingerprint was Damon's, because blood evidence supported the finding that he moved after the attack, unlike Devon, and was near the coffee table. A state fingerprint expert also questioned the validity of the fingerprints found by the Routiers.
"I know he moved near the fingerprint because of the blood evidence.
"Of the 100-plus blood samples analyzed, there was not one drop of unidentified blood inside that home," he said. "We were able to identify every single sample that we took. Every single blood drop in there either belonged to Devon, Damon or Darlie."
Routier's attorney's said they may have more evidence coming related to the bloody fingerprint. The two boys' bodies were exhumed a couple of months ago. When asked if the fingerprint could have been matched with Damon's to determine if the print did indeed match Damon's, Cooper said, "We're working on that right now."
If a new trial is obtained for Routier, Darin said he believed the print evidence will come out, but is not yet ready to be released.
"We're not talking about that yet because that's for trial," he said. "It is a big piece of evidence, we're just not ready to explore into that yet.
"What's going to happen when we find out it's not Damon's? Then who's is it? It's an intruder and we're going to prove it," he said.
Davis believes the right person got convicted in the crime, but said he welcomes any new evidence that could point to someone else. He said the print on the coffee table had to have come from a child or small adult, neither of which would fit the description of an attacker described by Routier. Davis said he hasn't heard anything new about the print not matching Damon's.
"I haven't heard one single thing yet," he said. "But if they have anything new I'd be happy to hear it."
|©The Lakeshore Times 2003|