Conroe, October 28 – On Wednesday, October 25, 2017, District Attorney Brett Ligon received some news that sickened him and a gigantic swath of the caring citizens of Montgomery County: convicted capital murderer Larry Ray Swearingen’s November 16 execution had to be stayed and delayed, because Montgomery County District Clerk Barbara Gladden Adamick failed to provide the mandatory statutorily-required notice of the execution to the State Office of Capital and Forensic Writs.
On June 28, 2000, a Montgomery County Jury convicted Swearingen of the December 8, 1998, murder of Melissa Trotter. For the past seventeen (17) years, the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office, representing the people of the State of Texas, has fought appeal after appeal through state and federal courts. Finally, around August 1, 2017, Swearingen’s appeals seemed to have run out. After appropriate District Court rulings, it was time for Adamick, as District Clerk, to sign a Death Warrant for the execution to occur. For some reason, Adamick didn’t sign this most serious of documents emanating from her office but left that duty to a Deputy Clerk.
More significantly, Adamick failed to notify the State Office of Capital and Forensic Writs, as Article 43.141(b-2) of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure requires. As a result, according to Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon, who spoke briefly to The Golden Hammer, there will be at least a 90 day delay in Swearingen’s execution.
The first reaction that all of us feel is sorrow for the family of the victim, the Trotters, and their many friends in and around this community.
Adamick clearly made a serious error the primary consequence to whom will be the victim’s family. Nevertheless, the taxpayers of Montgomery County and of Texas will take a substantial hit as well the calculation of which reveals how serious are the ministerial tasks the District Clerk must perform.
If the State of Texas must keep alive and house Swearingen an additional 90 days, there is a serious cost. Death row inmates cost the State of Texas approximately $100 per day for housing and food alone, according to statistics made available from the Texas Department of Criminal Justice whose Instititutional Division operates “death row” at its Polunsky Unit. The Institutional Division confines death row offenders in single-person cells, lets them receive a “regular diet, and have access to reading, writing, and legal materials.” Because of the careful manner in which the State incarcerates those offenders, the manpower cost to the State is quite high for each prisoner and can run close to $200 per day. Individuals in the Montgomery County District Attorney’s Office and in the Institutional Division, who requested anonymity, all confirmed that an estimate of $300 per day for incarceration is a realistic amount for “death row” inmates. Therefore, in incarceration expense alone, Adamick’s error will likely cost Texans around $27,000.
Additionally, however, the District Attorney’s Office, the Texas Attorney General’s Office, and the State Office of Capital and Forensic Writs will likely provide at least 20 attorney hours per week for approximately 10 weeks in order to handle legal issues related to Swearingen’s death sentence and continued attempts to avoid it. The estimate for those additional costs is approximately $20,000.
This terrible error is, thus, far more than ministerial. It’s costing taxpayers almost $50,000, although some have estimated quite a bit more. More importantly, it’s greatly adding to the sorrow and frustration that innocent victims feel towards the Texas legal system.
Adamick should swiftly take action to correct herself, face the consequences of her error, and ensure that the error never happens again. Adamick should spend the long hours necessary in her office every day to check papers to ensure their accuracy and conformity with the requirements of the law.