Longform

Defending Darlie

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Pardo also had a videotape of Darin's post-test interview analyzed by a voice stress expert in Houston. During this interview, he was asked if he stabbed Darlie. He grinned and said no. Pardo says the voice stress analysis concluded Darin was lying. Darlie, however, passed a similar test conducted of a videotaped interview where she professed her innocence.

Pardo has resorted to questionable techniques, from handwriting analysis to reverse speech, wherein a tape of the person talking is played backwards and his subconscious supposedly reveals all sorts of unvarnished truths. From this, Pardo thinks he's determined exactly what happened that night in the Routier household and why. Pardo is clearly creeping close to the lunatic fringe here. So far, except for satisfying some need of his to play pseudo detective, none of this amounts to much. But he recently hired Houston detective Richard Reyna to track down some promising leads.

Whatever credibility Pardo has, his latest tactics are eroding it. Except for Aunt Sandi and Darlie, no one in the Routier family is talking to him now. They almost told him to take a hike, but with an expensive appeals process looming and very little money of their own, they know Pardo's generosity might be needed. In the meantime, people working on Darlie's behalf worry that unless Pardo can come up with something solid and admissible in court, he may be hurting Darlie more than helping.

"Brian is a neophyte in this business, and I jumped his ass about going public with Darin's polygraph results," says Stephen Cooper, Darlie's court-appointed appeals lawyer. "You don't go public with information that could be harmful to a client's best interest. The D.A. has always suspected Darin was involved in some form. This could explain how the sock got down the alley. You are tainting an important witness for the defense. Say she wins a new trial and there are no new facts; Darin is the only person who can corroborate her story."

Cooper understands that Pardo is trying to put pressure on whoever he thinks are the real culprits in an attempt to "flush them out. Darlie desperately wants to find the real killer, but 99 percent of cases don't result in that."

Even if Pardo is right in believing that the state did not prove its case against Darlie, arguing that in an appeal is a tough way to get a capital-murder verdict overturned. And the No. 1 goal is to win a new trial, says Cooper.

"Most people looking at the evidence are convinced, and we are too, that it doesn't reach the level of establishing guilt by beyond a reasonable doubt," Cooper says. "But arguing that in an appeal is fairly rare. But we're looking at it."

The more conventional--and winnable--approach is to show that errors were committed during the trial. But those errors must be egregious enough to have deprived the defendant of a fair trial. For example, Cooper says, it was "outrageous" that Rowlett police officer Jimmy Lee Patterson, the lead investigator on the Routier case, took the Fifth Amendment. "But we have to show how that harmed [Darlie]."

Pardo knows better than most, from his experience with David Spence, that even with the most compelling new evidence and examples of significant trial error, it is often next to impossible to get a case overturned.

But thanks to Pardo, Cooper may get some top-notch help with the appeal. Pardo recently paid $8,000 for Steve Loesch, one of the best appellate attorneys in the state, to review the trial transcript and make some preliminary recommendations on how to proceed with the appeal. Pardo also may bring Loesch on board to handle part of the appeal--if the cost isn't too prohibitive.

Pardo and Cooper agree on one thing: "From looking at the pictures you can tell that Darlie was definitely a victim," says Cooper. "Crazy people can slaughter their children and cut the shit out of themselves. But with crazy people, there is usually a downward spiral and after a crime, they don't become normal again. This woman is not crazy.

"It is absolutely clear to me that she is absolutely not guilty of this crime. Guilty people know they are guilty and there are limits on their ability to think logically. They frequently mislead their lawyer. But she has good suggestions about what leads to follow, not just rabbit trails. From the media reports and the pictures of her, the impression I had was that she was shallow and not very smart. But I'm really impressed with Darlie."

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Ann Zimmerman