Routier attorneys ask for ruling


7/4/2002

By BILL MILLER
Star-Telegram Dallas Bureau

DALLAS - Attorneys for Darlie Routier urged a state district judge Wednesday to declare his authority to rule on evidence sought in the appeal of her 1997 capital murder conviction.

Judge Robert W. Francis agreed to consider the request over the holiday weekend, then relate his decision to Routier's attorneys and state prosecutors next week.

If Francis agrees that he has jurisdiction, he'll schedule another hearing on the defense attorneys' request that prosecutors share some evidence from the case.

Defense attorneys believe new forensic tests on the items will help prove that their client is innocent. Included is the bloody nightshirt Routier wore the night of June 6, 1996, when her sons Devon and Damon were fatally stabbed in the family's Rowlett home.

Her attorneys are eager for a quick ruling because they have less than two weeks to file a writ of habeas corpus to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin. If approved, the writ would allow the attorneys to introduce new evidence in their attempts to get the conviction overturned.

Routier has remained on women's Death Row in Gatesville since a jury in Kerr County convicted her in the slaying of 5-year-old Damon.

Routier sat with her attorneys at Wednesday's hearing, dressed in a white prison jumpsuit. She said very little, answering questions from the judge with brief responses. Mike Flanagan of Washington, D.C., an attorney new to the Routier case, complained that the state has refused to share the evidence, so the defense had no choice but to ask Francis to intervene.

Her attorneys also want to test various samples of bloody tile and carpeting from the crime scene and fibers from a bread knife. "It's an issue of fairness," Flanagan said. "You're our last hope to gain access."

Prosecutors argued that Francis has no official jurisdiction on the request until the writ of habeas corpus is filed. "Their motion is just prematurely filed," said John Rolater, a Dallas County assistant district attorney. "They're really not being denied anything."

Also at the hearing was J. Stephen Cooper of Dallas, who has handled much of Routier's appeals process for the past year.

Cooper said the defense is receiving free assistance from Flanagan and other lawyers from the Washington-based law firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher, which was referred to the case by the American Bar Association's Death Penalty Representation Project.