Larry Swearingen, who maintained for decades that he was wrongfully convicted of killing 19-year-old community college student Melissa Trotter in 1998, was executed on Wednesday evening in Texas. According to The Texas Tribune, the 48-year-old was taken to the execution chamber minutes after his late appeal was denied by the U.S. Supreme Court and he maintained his innocence until his death. “Lord forgive them. They don’t know what they are doing,” Swearingen said as his last words. He then said he could “taste” the lethal dose of pentobarbital injected into him and described a burning sensation in his arm. He was pronounced dead at 6:47 p.m. Swearingen and his lawyers fought the conviction and argued that scientific evidence cleared him, gathering experts who claimed Trotter had died after he had already been jailed and who pointed at DNA under Trotter’s fingernails that didn’t match her or Swearingen. The Montgomery County district attorney’s office, however, said they had no doubt Swearingen was the killer due to the circumstantial evidence prosecutors gathered to make the conviction.
In a statement to The Washington Post ahead of the execution on Wednesday, Swearingen said the state of Texas “murdered an innocent man” and that he felt “certain that my death can be a catalyst to change the insane legal system of Texas which could allow this to happen.” He then called the Post shortly before 5 p.m. CT and said he just needed “four votes from the Supreme Court to stop this,” but the votes didn’t come. He is the fourth person to be executed in Texas this year, and the 12th in the U.S.