Court allows DNA testing for Routier, Former Altoona woman on death row in Texas for killing her two sons in 1996

By Phil Ray, June 20, 2008
A Texas court has concluded that new DNA testing on several pieces of evidence in the Darlie Lynn Routier homicide case could convince a jury that the former Altoona woman did not kill her two children more than a decade ago. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals Wednesday granted Routier's request for DNA tests on several items, such as a blood spot on a tube sock, several hairs found at the crime scene, previously-tested bloodstains on a nightshirt and "flakes" of blood on the door of a utility room leading to the garage of the Routier home in Rowlette. Some of the items, like the flakes on the door, had been tested before Routier's trial with no results. The 38-year-old mother now argues that new scientific techniques could provide evidence from the blood and hairs that would tend to show she did not kill her boys. Prosecutors tried her on only one of the killings, that of her 5-year-old son, Damon. Her other son, Devon, 6, also died in the attack June 6, 1996. Routier is on death row in Texas, but for the past decade, she has filed appeals seeking to overturn her conviction and sentence, proclaiming that a stranger entered her house as she slept in the family room of her home and killed her boys. She had slash marks and multiple bruises she said she suffered at the hands of the intruder. The investigation concluded that the killings were staged by Routier because the family was having financial problems. Prosecutor Craig Watkins insisted that the ruling would not result in a new trial, the Dallas Morning News reported. The nine-member court of appeals stated that Routier wanted testing done on nine items. Routier, through her attorney Steve Cooper, had to cross several hurdles - showing that there was a 51 percent chance that any newly-discovered evidence likely would have changed the jury's decision and that DNA testing also would likely reveal new evidence. The court did not approve new testing if, for example, older techniques were sufficient to analyze a particular sample and if the defense did not previously request examination of the piece of evidence. But, looking at the big picture, the court concluded that if the hair samples and the blood evidence now show that there may have been an unknown person in the house that night, it would be significant. "Such substantial corroboration of the (Routier's) ...account would have a strong tendency to engender a reasonable doubt in the average juror's mind," the court stated. The justices said the government has "no lack of evidence" of Routier's guilt, including her insistence at the scene that she had touched the bloody knife used to kill the children, the lack of overturned furniture in the room where allegedly three people were brutally mauled, testimony that drops of blood on Routier's night shirt were "cast-off stains" from the boys, the financial difficulties, and Routier's behavior after the deaths that seemed "nothing like a grieving mother."