Enter the World of Darlie Routier -- a world where good and evil dwell as friends.
INSIDE THE WORLD OF DARLIE
By Anne Good, for Justice: Denied, The Magazine for the Wrongly Convicted
PART 1, THE FACTS THAT SHAPE DARLIE'S WORLD
Case summary: On the night of June 6, 1996 two young boys, little Damon, 5, and Devon, 6, lie sleeping on the floor in front of the television while their mother, Darlie Routier, 26, slept on the couch. Exactly what happened next remains a mystery. Suffering from partial traumatic amnesia, Ms. Routier recalls being awakened by her son and "feeling groggy." She saw a man in a baseball cap standing near the couch. Both of her sons died that night from multiple and brutal stab wounds to the upper torso inflicted by a knife from the Routier kitchen and a second knife, which has never been found. Ms. Routier's throat was slashed and she was stabbed several times. Emergency surgery saved her life. Twelve days later she was arrested. Seven months later, she was convicted of killing her children and sentenced to die.
The past four years have produced clear and convincing evidence that Darlie Routier did not murder her children. Her conviction appears to have been the direct result of suppressed evidence, prosecutorial misconduct, character assassination, and an over-zealous DA who was willing to "bend" the rules to secure a conviction.
Darlie's suburban world was shattered forever on that June night of long ago. A new world was about to emerge...a world where the truth is fluid and can take on any guise...and where "winning" is all that matters to the state. In this world justice takes a back seat to job promotions, weekly paychecks, and personal gain. Below are a few facts that have helped shape this New World that Darlie must now call "hers."
• The jury never heard about a possible missing murder weapon. Darlie was never charged with Devon's death, perhaps, because the murder weapon was never recovered. The only weapon in existence is the knife from the Routier kitchen that contains Darlie and Damon's blood. Dr. Janice Townsend-Parchman and Dr. Joni McClain, who performed the autopsies on Devon and Damon, testified that the large butcher knife found "could have" inflicted the wounds on both boys. However, they failed to mention that Devon's blood was not found on this knife.
• The crime scene was severely contaminated. With disregard for crime scene protocol, at least twenty paramedics and police officers trampled through the house before it was completely secured. Key evidence was moved, blood was trampled on, multiple bloody items were rolled up and put in the same bag, and wet, bloody towels were left behind. The vacuum cleaner was moved all over the place and the pillow Darlie was lying on disappeared and reappeared throughout the collection of crime scene photos. This is extremely significant because the placement of these items was used to "prove" Darlie staged the crime scene.
• Key evidence was withheld from the jury. Although approximately 1000 photos were taken, the defense only had access to approximately 400. The prosecution claims this is untrue. What does remain true, however, is the jury never saw the photos of Darlie's extensive wounds and bruising. The prosecution was able to successfully convince the jury that her wounds were not serious, thus, self-inflicted.
• Lack of motive continues to be troubling. With absolutely no history of violence and a reputation for being a loving and devoted mother, we must question the state's attempt to explain her actions. What would make a devoted wife and mother wake up in the middle of the night and savagely murder two of her three sons as they slept? If it was premeditated, she did a lousy job of it by staging a crime scene and then saying she didn't remember a thing. If it was because she felt overwhelmed by the demands of parenting, why kill the two older boys and leave the baby, the one who is the most demanding, alive? If it was because she needed money and saw her affluent lifestyle slipping away, why not kill Darin, who was sound asleep and had an $800,000 life insurance policy? If it was because she "snapped," where is the building process? Are we to believe that she made the kids popcorn, watched a family movie with them, fell asleep, woke up, snapped, savagely butchered her children, slit her throat and stabbed herself, beat her arms brutally with a blunt object, staged a crime scene, unsnapped, and called 911?
• The timeline is impossible. The state's own expert testified that Damon, who was still alive when the paramedics arrived, could not have lived any longer than 9 minutes. The 911 call lasts for 5 minutes and 44 seconds. Darlie is on the phone the entire time. The paramedics were held up for two minutes by police officers that were inspecting the house before they allowed them in. This gives Darlie approximately 1 minute and 16 seconds to inflict her wounds, stage a crime scene, and plant the bloody sock 75 yards from the Routier home.
• Recently (May 8, 2000) The Dallas Morning News uncovered the fact that the state's key expert witness, Charles Linch, was committed to a psychiatric hospital and heavily medicated because he was a danger to himself and others. The information was kept from the jury and the defense team. Mr. Linch has now stated he performed work in this case for which he was not qualified. More information is to come.
• A bloody fingerprint on the coffee table remains unidentified, giving the potential to bolster Darlie's claim of an intruder.
• Summary: In this highly complex case, these bullet points are only the tip of the iceberg. They are provided to give those readers who are unfamiliar with Darlie's case a brief overview. Additional research will positively convince even the most casual reader that a serious injustice has occurred in a land that theoretically offers "liberty and justice for all."
For a more detailed account of this case, please refer to our archives and click on "Darlie Routier: In Search of the Truth."
PART 2, ENTER DARLIE'S WORLDNo More Stalins, No More Hitlers
By William S. Burroughs
We have a new type of rule now
not one man rule or rule of aristocracy
but of small groups elevated to
positions of absolute power by random pressures
and subject to political and economic factors
that leave little room for decision.
They're representatives of abstract forces
who've reached power through surrender of self.
The iron will dictator is a thing of the past.
There will be no more Stalins, no more Hitlers.
The rulers of this most insecure of all worlds
are rulers by accident,
inept, frightened pilots at the controls
of a vast machine they cannot understand.
They bring in experts to tell them which buttons to push.
Leaving Dallas County en route to the Mountain View Unit in Gatesville, Texas, the view noticeably improves. No longer flat and dry, lush vistas begin to emerge as one maneuvers through the now increasing peaks and valleys.
Gatesville can be best described as a "one horse town" and that "horse" is the Texas Department of Corrections. A makeshift restaurant in the local Texaco station, complete with cheap tables and worn chairs, seems to be the preferred choice for dining among many of the locals, most of whom are employed by the prison system. Laughter frequently erupts among the uniformed, gun-toting clientele as they feast on the special of the day, fried crawfish pie. Surprisingly, the convenience of filling your tank, buying a corn dog and a slush, and enjoying a light moment or two with your coworkers seems to make sense in Gatesville.
Approaching the prison, hundreds of Scissor Tails, a unique bird indigenous to the area, dance in the sky, momentarily conjuring up images of a Disney film. Surrounded by wild mustard, blue bonnets, cactus, grazing cows, and rolling hills, Mountain View certainly lives up to its name. But, looks can be deceiving. Amidst this peaceful backdrop lies a cold concrete structure cloaked in seemingly endless rows of razor wire.
Despite its pastoral setting, make no mistake: this is a place where Death reigns supreme. It would be difficult to exaggerate the dark presence that permeates the compound. Once inside, even the air seems harder to breathe and the sunlight more harsh to the eye. The unit itself is clean, well kept, and as pleasant as any place can be with the sole purpose of housing inmates who are counting the days until they are transported to the death chamber. Hand painted murals of children adorn the walls and inmate art is proudly displayed in a glass showcase. Every visitor is treated with kindness from the staff.
This is a very confusing place to visit.
It looks more like a location for a retreat, a place for spiritual rejuvenation. Instead of offering serenity for the occupants of the little red brick "home," it offers little hope of ever leaving unless encased in a body bag.
This is Death Row. This is where we put all those we deem "undesirable." This is Darlie Routier's world.
Known as "Offender Routier" to guards, Wardens, and other prison officials, Darlie seems sad but relaxed when we meet. She is escorted out of her cell in handcuffs by a guard who routinely exchanges pleasantries with her. Through bullet proof Plexiglass, a prison official greets her warmly, asking her how she has been since they last met. Various officials tell me what a "wonderful" person Darlie is. They are sincere and seem to genuinely like her. They joke and interact with her as though she was the favored friend of one of their own children.
Darlie explains her view, that these are basically "good, hard working people...just doing their job." Her spirit of benevolence is impressive and I am intrigued by her thoughts.
Can "good people" participate in bad things and remain "good"? I wonder.
Still, these are the very same people who handcuff and shackle this "wonderful" woman, submit her to humiliating strip searches several times daily, and lock the door to the 6 x 9 cell that she has occupied for four difficult years. They are also the very same people who will serve Darlie her last meal as they prepare a final "cocktail" that will stop her heart from beating. I think of Karla Faye Tucker, who thanked her captors for their kind treatment as they strapped her to a gurney, several with tears in their eyes. Yes, these are the very same people who will "do their job" and announce to the world the exact time of Darlie Routier's death and describe what her last minutes were like.
Does it really matter if they joke with her now, and have a tear in their eye at the end?
The confusion increases.
Like a vine creeping up the exterior of a historic building, at first glance the foliage is attractive. A closer look will reveal crumbling mortar as the vine slowly but steadily imbeds itself into the structure. In time, this once harmless sprig will gain enough momentum to actually bring down the once solid brick exterior. Such is the way of evil; it appears harmless at first glance, it may even appear attractive but, in time, it will pervade our lives, causing nothing but decay and destruction.
Horrific images of Hitler's reign float in and out of our collective consciousness. We have no problem identifying the actions of the Gestapo as evil. There are few US citizens who can think of Auschwitz without shuddering. It is only in the understanding that many of these soldiers were simply "doing their job" by day, and were loving fathers and husbands by night that we can begin to fathom how "good people" can participate in bad deeds.
Perhaps when viewing it on an individual basis, true evil is not commonplace. It is institutionalized evil that is destructive for it relies on the cooperation and support of "good people" to accomplish its devastating goals.
With the entire nation now intently focused on "Who Wants to be a Millionaire," it is not surprising that institutionalized evil can flourish, unrecognized, right in front of our very eyes. As the national debate centers on the color of Regis Philbin's tie, the state of Texas is literally getting away with murder and most certainly executing innocents in its quest to "get tough on crime." Perhaps we were watching "Queen for a Day" while six million Jews were slaughtered.
This is an extreme example, to be sure, but perhaps the question that begs asking is: what is more extreme in our society than an organized effort to strap human beings to a gurney and with full knowledge and intent, kill them? A.) Nothing B.) Kathy Lee talking about Cody C.) Using all life lines in the first two questions D.) Calling George W. Bush for the answer.
I'll go with A...and that's my final answer.
The fact that many of these inmates have not received the benefit of competent counsel and others are surely innocent, like Ms. Routier, only compounds this societal nightmare.
All that is necessary for evil to flourish is for good people to do nothing.
This is not the only bewildering aspect of Darlie's world. She now finds herself surrounded by a host of well meaning people, most with some type of personal agenda. People on the outside have attached themselves to her for a variety of reasons. Her family and friends have stood by her because they love her and believe in her innocence...and they cannot bear the thought of losing her to a system of justice that has lost its way. Her mother, Darlie Kee, vows to fight for her daughter's innocence "until I take my last breath." Other family members and friends reinforce that same sentiment.
However, like the guards who collect a weekly paycheck, there are those who get close to Ms. Routier for personal gain. Notoriety seems to attract self-serving agendas. Inside this cast of colorful characters is a businessman who likes to play "Dick Tracy," Internet junkies who spend endless hours discussing this case and love to post "I received a letter from Darlie today," writers who promote her guilt or innocence depending on the financial climate, and inmates who would use her and tell lies about her in one hot minute as a bargaining tool for a reduction in their own sentence. Disguised as friends, supporters, and "knights in shining armor," these predatory people feed off her vulnerability and her innocent, self-described belief "that people are basically good."
But, can "self-serving people" participate in "good things" and still be considered "self-serving?" Again, I wonder.
In spite of the predatory aspects of her daily encounters, Darlie still manages to find comfort in sincere expressions of human kindness. Her attorney, public defender Stephen J. Cooper, has set a new and higher standard for those who represent indigent clients. Tirelessly, he works to free her, often doing solo what most law firms would assign five attorneys to handle. His genuine affection for his client is apparent, most assuredly the result of his complete belief in her innocence. A million-dollar check could not buy this kind of effort and loyalty. No, this exhausting endeavor is the result of Compassion meeting Innocence and taking action.
Additionally, there is an outpouring of love from complete strangers who simply want her to know they care. Ms. Routier receives some 200 letters weekly, many of them sincere in their support. As Darlie told me, "The love I receive from strangers is often what gets me through the day. Sometimes a single minute can seem like eternity in here, but when I read those letters I am lifted up...they give me the strength to keep on going."
Can it get any more confusing? Darlie's only human contact is with those "good people" who will kill her the moment they receive a brief memo from their superior. She hasn't held her four-year-old son in four years...or been allowed to cry in her mother's arms over the loss of her beautiful boys, Devon and Damon. Not a single friend or family member has been able to comfort her with a hug during the worst nightmare of her life. The only time she is ever touched is when a guard brushes her skin as she is being handcuffed and shackled.
How long can the human spirit persevere under these conditions?
We know it can continue for at least four years, for Darlie Routier's compassionate spirit remains astonishingly intact. Conversations with her often revolve around normal human struggles common to us all: learning to forgive, keeping a positive attitude, and trying to reserve judgment toward those whose actions could be harmful to us. A single afternoon with her reveals that Darlie is more successful with these struggles than many who have not faced a fraction of the tragedy, pain, and confusion that encompasses her daily world.
Darlie minimizes her accomplishments. "I am no better or worse than anyone else. Being here just magnifies the struggles that each one of us face. I am just trying to survive each day in here the best way that I can. The state has taken everything else from me...I can't let them take my spirit."
I left the Mountain View Unit with more questions than answers. This environment is not as black and white as most people would assume. There are plenty of gray areas to ponder. This is not a matter that can be defined by anti-death penalty views versus pro-death penalty views. It's about "good people doing their job" while compartmentalizing their paycheck from their value system. Before we are too quick to judge, we must consider the guard who is the single mother of four, living in small town with few employment options, and relying on her earnings to feed and clothe her family. We must also consider the very nature of an evil that is so pervasive it can exist with a smile and a handshake and weave its way into the daily fabric of decent, hardworking people without them even noticing.
Before we judge the personal agendas of those colorful characters who seem to prey on tragedy, we must also consider that they have indeed stepped out of their daily lives to immerse themselves in a cause that is decidedly unpopular and offers little hope and few rewards. A yearly contribution to the Jerry Lewis Telethon would be far less complicated.
Let us also not fail to notice and address the systematic evil that hangs like a dark, ominous cloud over Darlie's world. In every single failure to perceive evil, we run the risk of becoming unwitting participants. We owe it to ourselves to approach this as though our very survival depends on it -- because perhaps it does.
A popular T-shirt slogan in the 60's was "What if they gave a war and nobody came?" Today, in the state of Texas, that same slogan could read, "What if they held an execution and nobody came?" Each one of us is responsible for our actions and must bear the burden of looking evil in the eye and choosing to remain passive...or collecting a paycheck.
If one afternoon at The Mountain View Unit can produce so many questions and so much confusion, imagine what living there must like.
Now, there may well be the most confusing paradox of all -- life on death row.
With no life lines left and evil on the rise faster then game show ratings, there are no winners in Darlie's World.
© Justice Denied