Defending Darlie

Wealthy Waco businessman Brian Pardo spends his time and money helping death-row inmates he believes are innocent. His efforts on behalf of Darlie Routier have raised suspicions about her husband--and about Pardo's motives.

As for the errant bloody sock, Cron said he thinks Darin put it down the alley in an attempt to cover for his wife, and the boys' blood came from wiping a portion of the knife. But none of Devon's blood was ever found on the knife.

Asked if it were unusual that only blood and clothing fibers from Damon and Darlie were found on the knife, Cron said Devon wasn't wearing a shirt and his blood might have been wiped off during the subsequent attacks. But Devon was wearing a shirt; the paramedics had removed it. And Devon's wounds were the deepest, by more than an inch, so how would blood from the deepest part of his cuts have been wiped off the knife during a subsequent attack? Pardo suspects that two knives were used, and thus there were two assailants. He's retained a forensic pathologist to investigate whether he can tell from pictures of the wounds and the autopsies whether the cuts were made from two separate knives.

Charles Linch, a trace-materials analyst with the Southwest Institute for Forensic Science, supported Cron's contention that the scene was staged. He maintained that the screen had been cut from the outside with a bread knife from the kitchen. He based this claim on a tiny amount of fiberglass and rubber debris that he found on the knife. It was such a tiny amount, there was none left over for defense to do their own testing.

Cron admits this evidence was not conclusive. But it helped sway the jury. It had to be a setup, one juror said after the trial, because an intruder wouldn't use his knife to cut the screen, then use one from the house in the attacks.

Harrell has a possible answer for this. "Maybe they wanted to keep their own knife free of incriminating evidence," he says, further explaining why the intruder would leave the bloody knife behind. But all of this is beside the point. It is clear to him that the jury tried to solve the case, and that wasn't their job.

"If you have questions, you have doubt, and you're supposed to acquit."

Like many people, Pardo is convinced that what persuaded the jury to convict was the televised footage of the party the Routiers held at the Rockwall graveyard eight days after the murder to honor what would have been Devon's seventh birthday. The camera captured Darlie joyously squirting Silly String on the grave, which was covered with toys and balloons, and hugging her guests.

The image was not what one would expect of a grieving young mother. Of course, what the television camera didn't catch was the solemn, tear-filled memorial service presided over by a pastor that preceded the party.

Perhaps it was having seen the party scene on the news that made the Baylor Hospital staff decide that Darlie had not shown an appropriate amount of grief when she was hospitalized after the attack. But the nurses' testimony that Darlie didn't cry and seemed emotionally detached doesn't square with the notes they made on her chart. When she entered the intensive care unit after her wounds were stitched, Darlie's chart read that she was "crying and visibly upset." Two hours later, a nurse notes: "Patient very emotional. Periods of sobbing, talking about night and family." An hour later, with her family and a chaplain at her bedside, she is "very tearful." Throughout the afternoon and the following morning, before Darlie is discharged, there are several notations that she is "tearful" and "anxious."

Harrell says the defense was handicapped because they had only 60 days to prepare for the trial. He never had time, for example, to interview the nurses. He wanted to ask them what the expected reaction is for someone in the face of trauma and death. He would have pointed out to them that Susan Smith appeared to grieve appropriately--before confessing to killing her kids.

Jurors did think Darlie exhibited more emotion for herself than for her children during her four-hour testimony. Darlie did not make the best witness. When the prosecutor pressed her about the family finances, Darlie tried to minimize the issue. The mortgage payment wasn't missing, just late, she said. She came across as argumentative. And when Assistant District Attorney Toby Shook confronted her with letters that she had written from jail to friends and family members that said, "We believe we know who did it. I saw him, and I know who it is," Darlie began sobbing. She tried to explain through her tears that investigators working for her lawyers at the time kept telling her about information they were collecting on different suspects, and she was hoping that the leads would pan out. But the damage was done; she appeared as if she had been caught in a lie.

"I've been to two goat ropings and one county fair, and I'm not a dummy, but I've never seen a crime that doesn't have a motive," says Lloyd Harrell. "I think it is fundamentally wrong that you've got a girl on death row and the state says it doesn't have to prove a motive. It doesn't make any sense. You can't find anyone to say anything bad about her. She was the mother whom all the other mothers trusted. And all of a sudden she snaps. Well, you don't just snap back. I lie awake at night trying to figure it out."

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