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Execution Delayed:  A ruling by the Fifth Circuit has stopped the execution of convicted Texas murderer Larry Swearingen, according to this story by Michael Graczyk in today's Houston Chronicle.   Swearingen was convicted in 1999 of the kidnap, rape and murder of 19-year-old Melissa Trotter, a college student he had met three days earlier.  According to the news story, the stay of execution is based upon a change of opinion regarding how long the victim's body was in the woods before it was discovered.  The coroner, who originally testified that the victim died the day she disappeared, has changed her opinion and now believes that the victim died at a later date, possibly when Swearingen was already in jail for outstanding traffic warrants.  Evidence introduced at trial indicated that the victim had been inside Swearingen's trailer, hairs forcibly pulled from her head were found in his pickup, and, on the day she disappeared, Swearingen's cellphone records confirm that he was in the area where her body was later discovered.  The case has been remanded to the District Court for consideration of the disputed time-of-death evidence. 

How Long Does a Request for a Lawyer Last?  The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to review a Maryland Court of Appeals ruling which threw out the confession of a child molester  according  to this story by AP writer Jesse J. Holland.  In 2003, imprisoned sex offender Michael Shatzer was questioned by a detective about his alleged sexual abuse of his three- year-old son. Shatzer refused to answer questions without an attorney and the investigation was dropped.  Three years later, when Shatzer's son was older and better able to describe the abuse by his father, Shatzer was interviewed again.  This time he waived his right to an attorney and confessed.  After he was charged, Shatzer won the 5-2 appeals court ruling  which held that "In the case of an inmate in continuous incarceration who invokes his right to counsel, the protections of Edwards apply until either counsel is made available to him, or he initiates further conversation with the police. We find this particularly necessary where, as in Shatzer's case, the two interrogations pertained to the same underlying crime."
The case is Maryland v. Shatzer, 08-680.

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