The Darlie Routier Case

  • Site description

    This site seeks to provide information about the case of Darlie Routier. Darlie is on death row in Texas for a crime she has steadfastly maintained she did not commit.

    A growing body of evidence supports her claims of innocence.

    Please take time to learn about Darlie’s case. Join us in speaking out.

    Use the site map located here, the search tool below, or click on the headers at the top of the page to navigate the site.

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    To donate to Darlie's Defense Fund that is managed by her defense attorneys, please click here

The Defense

A Last Minute Change of Attorneys

On June 28th of 1996, Douglas H. Parks was appointed to represent Darlie Lynn Routier. Parks worked as Darlie’s public defender until he was replaced by Doug Mulder and Richard Mosty on October 21. This presented a conflict of interest because Mulder was previously representing Darlie’s husband, Darin Routier. In a later affidavit provided for Darlie’s federal writ of habeas corpus, Parks stated: “I had learned that Douglas Mulder was considering whether to accept employment as counsel for Darlie Routier several weeks before October 21, 1996. Upon learning of this possible employment by Darlie Routier’s and Mr. Mulder’s representation of Darin Routier, I became concerned that Mr. Mulder would be unable to represent both Darlie and Darin Routier without breaching his duty of loyalty to one or both clients.”

Parks indicated to Mulder that he believed Darin was “a viable suspect in the murder of Damon and that Darlie Routier had not waived any conflict of interest between herself and her husband.” Mulder informed Parks that he did not believe Darin had any involvement in the murder. He came to this conclusion, according to Parks, without reviewing the results of the investigation conducted by the public defender’s assigned to the case.

Parks was concerned enough about the conflict of interest to reiterate his concerns to Mulder in writing just days later. “I explained to Mr. Mulder that I continued to believe that Darin Routier was a possible perpetrator of the offense, and that the court had no addressed the possible conflict of interest generated by simultaneous representation of Darlie and Darin Routier.” Parks added, “I sent the letter, in part, because Mr. Mulder had suggested in chambers of the trial court on October 21, 1996, that he was not yet fully familiar with all aspects of the case at the time.”

Prior to Mulder taking over the case, Douglas Parks and co-counsel Wayne Huff, sought the assistance of a forensic consultant named Terry Laber. In an affidavit provided for Darlie’s writ, Laber stated that he and a colleague had the opportunity to view pieces of physical evidence relating to the case. The two recommended that the physical evidence reviewed be submitted by the defense for testing. The purpose of this testing was to refute the state’s case against Darlie.

Laber recommended that the defense seek testing regarding “wood fragments and blue fibers removed from the knife found on the kitchen counter” to determine their source. He also recommended “that microscopic and/or elemental comparison tests be conducted on the fiberglass and opaque materials removed from a bread knife to substantiate or dispute the State’s theory that the source of these materials was the window screen in the garage of 5801 Eagle Drive, Rowlett, Texas.”

Laber additionally noted a need for additional testing of Darlie’s nightshirt. “Based on defects (i.e. cuts) observed on the left side of the nightshirt, we determined that additional testing was required to identify the source of the defects. In addition, we recommended that genetic testing be conducted on several blood-stained areas of the nightshirt.”

The consultants recommended DNA and chemical testing of stains and prints left on the living room carpet, the Hoover vacuum cleaner, and Darin Routier’s blue jeans. The blue jeans contained a number of blood stains. Finally, the consultants suggested that “genetic testing be conducted on several blood-stained areas on the living room furniture, pillow and on the wine rack.”

Laber met with Mulder after he was replaced as counsel. He stated, “During the meeting, I provided Mr. Mulder and Mr. Harrell with a general overview of the work done to date by Mr. Epstein and I. It was my impression that Mr. Mulder nor Mr. Harrell seemed particularly interested in that work. Both men asked me only a few questions.”

Mulder did not follow up with Laber to obtain additional information or to seek the recommended testing. Based on trial transcripts it does not appear that Mulder had any of the recommended testing done, nor any testing to determine if the State’s testing was accurate and complete.

Laber’s involvement in Darlie’s defense ceased once Mulder failed to follow up. However, he later gave a statement in his affidavit that it was his professional opinion then (and remains his professional opinion) “that there were numerous pieces of physical evidence we reviewed that were not consistent with a staged crime scene.”

He included the following examples:

  1. An initial assessment of the vacuum cleaner indicated that it had not been pushed around by someone who was bleeding, but instead the bleeding occurred once the vacuum had already been knocked down.
  2. Examination of shards of broken glass indicated that the wine glass that had been broken was not consistent with a staged crime scene because it appeared as though the glass had broken while still in the wine rack. This did not match the theory that Darlie had purposefully broken the glass to make it appear as though an intruder entered the home.

Laber noted that physical evidence was a critical component to Darlie’s defense. “Independent testing of that physical evidence was crucial to properly evaluate the State’s case. There were numerous potential holes in the State’s case that required testing to conform or refute the State’s presentation of the evidence and to provide evidence that could well have refuted the State’s forensics testimony.” He believed this testing was a required component of proving Darlie’s innocence.

He believed that the brushes and powder used to dust the knives in the home should have been tested against the fiber found on one of the knives because fibers from one of the brushes could have been an alternate source. Samuel Palenik later gave a similar statement in an affidavit. He recommended that more advanced testing be conducted on the fiber using advanced techniques to determine whether the elemental composition matched that of the window screen.

The Mulder Files

Prior to becoming a defense attorney, Douglas Mulder was a Dallas prosecutor. He was responsible for the wrongful conviction of Randall Dale Adams who was charged in the murder of a police officer named Robert Wood. Documentary filmmaker Errol Morris put together a disturbing and fascinating look at Adam’s prosecution and subsequent conviction in The Thin Blue Line. The film played a critical role in the release of Adams just one year after its release.

Mulder was  accused in the documentary of withholding exculpatory evidence from Adams’ defense. The documentary also maintained that Mulder manipulated critical witnesses. When Mulder was asked about the evidence he withheld he claimed to have done it by mistake.

Adams spent 12 years in prison before his conviction was vacated. He eventually died from a brain tumor in 2010 at the age of 61.

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