A defense expert in the hearing of convicted killer Larry Ray Swearingen reluctantly agreed with prosecutors Thursday that histology – the study of microscopic cell tissue – isn’t an accepted method to determine the time of death in a body.
Meanwhile, defense attorney Stephen Jackson accused the state of asking a “trick question” and stressed the science is valid.
“If the (science) was not well-based, it would have been excluded by now (by state District Court Judge Fred Edwards). And that hasn’t happened,” Jackson said.
The hearing, which began Monday in Edwards’ 9th state District Court, was ordered by the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals in July 2011 to hear Swearingen’s claim of innocence.
Like the first three days, the fourth day of the hearing focused on the condition of Trotter’s body when it was found. The defense argued the condition of the body and, more important, microscopic slides of Trotter’s heart and liver, prove she could not have died 22-25 days prior to discovery.
However, during cross-examination of Galveston County Medical Examiner Stephen Pustilnik, the prosecution challenged the validity of histology in determining the postmortem interval – the time from death to when a body is found.
On more than one occasion, Special Prosecutor Lyn McClelland asked Pustilnik to examine several books on forensic pathology and see if Pustilnik could locate “any reference in any book” that connects the use of histology to determine PMI.
“They don’t exist,” Pustilnik said.
“The defense’s position is not valid science,” Assistant District Attorney Warren Diepraam said.
The hearing resumes Monday with the prosecution to present its experts.