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'Lord Forgive 'Em': Texas Executes Larry Swearingen

Inmate claimed science proved his innocence
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Aug 22, 2019 1:42 AM CDT
In this Jan. 7, 2009 photo, Texas death row inmate Larry Swearingen speaks from the interview cage at the death row facility in Livingston, Texas.   (AP Photo/Mike Graczyk, File)
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(Newser) – Texas inmate Larry Swearingen claimed he was innocent right up until his execution—and even beyond. "Today the state of Texas executed an innocent man," the 48-year-old said in a statement released after he received a lethal injection Wednesday. Swearingen, sentenced to die for the 1998 abduction, rape, and murder of college student Melissa Trotter, had his final appeal rejected by the US Supreme Court around 6pm and received the injection less than 40 minutes later, the Houston Chronicle reports. "Lord forgive 'em,” he said when asked if he had a final statement. "They don't know what they're doing." As the lethal dose began, he said: "I can hear it going through the vein—I can taste it," reports the AP. He stopped moving after saying he could feel burning in his right arm and was pronounced dead 12 minutes after the injection began.

Prosecutors said Swearingen kidnapped and murdered the 19-year-old because she rejected his sexual advances, but he maintained his innocence, arguing that the case against him was built on circumstantial evidence and "junk science," CNN reports. "I want everyone to know I'm not angry about my execution," he said in the statement released after his death. "Sure I would've liked to live and go free. But I feel certain that my death can be a catalyst to change the insane legal system of Texas which could allow this to happen." Prosecutors, however, said the evidence against him was overwhelming, and Trotter's relatives agreed. "Larry Swearingen needs to be removed from the annals of history as far as I'm concerned," prosecutor Kelly Blackburn said after the execution. "A bad man got what he deserved tonight." (Body decomposition was key in Swearingen's claims of innocence.)

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