Was Texas Death Row Mom Wrongly Convicted?

ByABC News via via logo

July 3, 2002 -- Darlie Routier is one of eight women waiting on death row in Texas, and even for a state with more than its share of shocking murder trials, hers was truly exceptional.

Routier was charged with murder in the 1996 deaths of her two sons, 5-year-old Damon and 6-year-old Devon. The boys were stabbed to death as they slept in the family's well-kept suburban Dallas home.

Darlie Routier, convicted and sentenced to the death penalty, has maintained that an intruder killed her children, and she still mourns their loss.

"Oh God. I miss them so much," she told ABCNEWS. "I swear I did not murder my children. I swear."

Now, new lawyers who have taken on her case said they have evidence that the 32-year-old mom is innocent. They plan to file a writ of habeas corpus to challenge the conviction and seek a new trial.

The new legal team has also submitted evidence to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, supporting the theory that an intruder was responsible for the slayings.

Several months prior to the attack, Darin Routier had spoken to his wife's stepfather about setting up a staged burglary of his home for insurance scam purposes, and defense attorneys now contend that the plot may have led to the slayings.

Dancing on Sons’ Graves

But just days after the death of her two sons, Darlie Routier was photographed literally dancing on their graves. She said that she went to the cemetery to mark what would have been Devon's birthday, and that the photos depicted a celebration of her son's life, not his death.

"He wanted to be seven," Routier said. "I did the only thing I knew to do to honor him and give him all his wishes because he wasn't here anymore. But how do you know what you're going to do when you lose two children? How do you know how you're going to act?"

The jury watched the video of the grave-dancing Routier seven times — and at least one juror said he discerned no sorrow in her behavior.

"She wasn't grieving, she was spraying the silly string and gnawing on that chewing gum," said juror Charlie Samford.

Because a judge ordered it suppressed, the jury never saw a police surveillance video of the grave site taken earlier that same day, where Darlie Routier was seen weeping and praying.

Juror’s Change of Heart

The prosecution depicted Routier as a glamorous, pampered housewife who felt the children were hampering her lifestyle, and lost control when her husband's computer business crashed.

Based on circumstantial evidence, the jury sentenced Routier to death in 1997.

Now Samford, the juror, has come forward to say that he made a mistake.

"I don't know who did it, but Darlie Routier didn't do it," he said.

He said that what changed his mind were photos of Routier with bruises, which he insists the jury never saw. Routier claims she suffered these bruises at the hands of a man who broke into her house and stabbed her children.

But prosecutors say the photos were entered into evidence, and that doctors say the wounds depicted in the photos were self-inflicted.

"The evidence pointed one direction and one direction only, Darlie Routier," Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Greg David. During the trial, prosecutors questioned the break-in theory, asking why nothing was taken if that were the case.

Crucial New Evidence

But new defense attorneys hope to win a new trial by pointing in another direction, toward an intruder.

Routier's new defense attorneys say an unexplained bloody fingerprint found on a table at the murder scene will be key.

At the trial, prosecution experts said it was a child's print, and since the children had already been buried it couldn't be identified. Two years ago when Devon and Damon's bodies were exhumed it was found that the unexplained print was not theirs.

A forensic expert says the adult fingerprint does not belong to Routier, her husband Darin, the children or any of the investigators and emergency personnel on the scene of the slayings.

The case is pending before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.

Mike von Fremd reported this story for Good Morning America.

ABC News Live

ABC News Live

24/7 coverage of breaking news and live events