Routier lawyers assail judge, ruling

They demand access to trial evidence for new analysis in slaying case

10:04 PM CDT on Tuesday, August 17, 2004

By ROBERT THARP / The Dallas Morning News

Two weeks after a state district judge rejected convicted child killer Darlie Routier's second appeal, the former Rowlett homemaker's attorneys gathered at the courthouse steps to criticize the ruling and demand access to trial evidence.

Attorney Richard Burr said Judge Robert Francis and prosecutors have an obligation to turn over evidence for new analysis that could get Ms. Routier off death row.

Darlie Routier
Darlie Routier

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"Any reasonable person who cares about the truth ... would say we've got to do some exploring," Mr. Burr said. "He did nothing as a judge that any of us would expect a judge to do."

Judge Francis declined to comment, saying only that his ruling speaks for itself.

The defense team has filed a new court motion asking an outside judge to order the release of the evidence they seek. A separate motion for new DNA testing is also pending. The state Court of Criminal Appeals is now considering the writ of habeas corpus that could allow for a new trial. Judge Francis rejected that appeal this month.

Assistant District Attorney John Rolater, an appellate specialist, said defense attorneys have not taken advantage of numerous opportunities to examine evidence they now seek. In September 2002, the district attorney's office offered to have evidence tested by an agreed-upon expert, but the defense did not accept, he said.

And in October 2002, the court granted an order giving the defense access to evidence, but Mr. Rolater said the defense never followed up.

"I don't think their claims have any merit," he said.

Attorney J. Stephen Cooper said the October order amounted only to looking at the evidence, not testing it. He called the prosecution assertion "an absolute lie."

Mr. Rolater said dozens of DNA tests have been performed since Ms. Routier's 1996 arrest and 1997 conviction, and each analysis pointed to Ms. Routier or the children as the source of the DNA material.

"Everything points at her," he said. "She's the only one with the opportunity and the motive and the animus toward the children."

Ms. Routier was sentenced to death for killing her 5-year-old son, Damon. She was also accused of killing her 6-year-old son, Devon, but was not tried for his death. She continues to maintain that she's innocent and that an intruder broke into the house and killed the boys and attacked her. She suffered knife wounds to her arms and neck that prosecutors contend were self-inflicted and staged to support the intruder theory.

Ms. Routier's mother attended the news conference. Ms. Routier's husband, Darin Routier, lives in Lubbock with their surviving son, now 8, and did not attend.

The appellate attorneys say one of the main issues are bloody fingerprints found on a table and door of the Routier home.

Two fingerprint experts for the state concluded that the prints could exclude everyone in the household except Ms. Routier.

Police investigators did not preserve the two boys' fingerprints for future reference. Their bodies were later exhumed, and the defense team used a forensic anthropologist to try to reconstruct their fingerprints.

A defense fingerprint analyst later ruled the prints were not consistent with Ms. Routier or the children and support Ms. Routier's claim of an intruder.

In his ruling on the appeal, Judge Francis sided with the prosecution and said the defense expert used procedures that were "not sound." Attorney Michael Flanagan said the judge should allow for more analysis.

"We believe the enhanced testing might show the source of it," he said.