In 2013, Werner Herzog made a documentary about the Routier case called On Death Row. It is far from over and the prosecutor’s misconduct should be condemned until there is redress.
Darlie Lynn Peck was born on January 4, 1970 in Altoona, Pennsylvania. When she was seven, following her parents’ divorce, she moved to Lubbock, Texas with her mother and siblings. Years later, she settled in the suburb of Rowlett with her husband Darin Routier and their three boys.
On June 6, 1996, she was accused of stabbing to death two of her three sons — 5-year-old Damon and 6-year-old Devon — in the family room of their home while her husband and their infant son Drake were sleeping upstairs.
She was prosecuted for the murder of Damon, the younger of the two boys and convicted of murdering him. She was sentenced to death on February 4, 1997, and is currently on death row in Texas awaiting execution by lethal injection.
At the time, the prosecution’s theory was that she had murdered her sons because of financial difficulties. Her husband owned a small tech company that he operated out of their home and he was used to earning a high income. By all accounts, they were living large. They had a huge two-story home, an SUV, a Jaguar and a boat. The prosecutors painted a picture of a pampered and materialistic woman who was in a state of panic because her luxurious lifestyle was evaporating.
The case was high profile and the image portrayed by the prosecution was picked up by the media and it spread among the public like wildfire.
The prosecutors in her trial were Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis, Toby Shook and Sherri Wallace. She was tried only for the murder of Damon because under Texas law, if convicted, she would be eligible for the death penalty due to his age.
“That she will be sentenced to die, and at some day in the future, she will be executed. That is our goal in this case”, Greg Davis said early in the game. It was his mantra and the search for the truth was not first and foremost in his mind. His goal was to pin her to the death row wall and fast.
Darlie’s defense attorney was Doug Parks and at the time, he decided to file a motion to request a change of venue thinking she could not receive a fair trial in Dallas County. Judge Mark Tolle granted the request and the trial was moved to Kerrville. It turned out to be a big mistake, given that Kerrville was located in one of Texas’s most conservative counties. Parks had played right in the prosecution’s hands.
He also filed a motion to have her bond, which was half a million dollars on each murder charge, drastically reduced but Judge Tolle denied it. The prosecutor wanted to make sure she would remain in custody so he created the perception that she could be a flight risk or even a threat to society.
When Doug Mulder succeeded Parks as her counsel, he quickly filed a motion to have the case returned to Dallas County. Judge Tolle denied the motion, much to the delight of the prosecution. The State’s case was good and ready with the help of the biased media which had spent the previous six months portraying Darlie as a materialistic evil murderess. Sensationalism sells and the truth often does not.
If there is one truth we should all believe, it is that ‘things are rarely as they seem’ and that we must always question the news and investigate before we let the media or the justice system shove their convenient version of the truth down our collective throats.
Not unlike other defendants vilified by the State and the media, Darlie, to fit their blueprint of the crime, became their materialistic Scarlett O’Hara from Gone with the Wind. She was living in her own Tara and had manipulated her poor husband into giving her the good life. And she was not going to go hungry again so she killed her kids instead. Give me a break Greg Davis!
I spent two years working on a regular basis in Dallas and I discovered that the Texas ladies had their own brand of chic. They tend to wear a lot of jewelry, makeup and their clothes can be flashy or high in ‘originality’. I was surprised to see quite a few wig stores in the city. Around here, wigs are a rare staple unless you are undergoing chemotherapy. But in Texas, the ladies like to mix it up.
After all, Dallas is the city where Mary Kay lived and established her business. She owned a big building in town and was responsible for boosting the local economy. This lady wore wigs, gold bumblebees, makeup galore, high heels and would have never been caught wearing pants. In fact, all her female employees were forbidden to wear pants at the office. The rule might have changed after she died in 2001, but that is how this business woman wanted it. God first, family second, career third, but in style.
Even if she preached the empowerment of women, all her sales managers were men. And in interviews, she spoke in a gentle, childish voice even though she was managing an empire. She rewarded the ladies who achieved the status of sales directors by letting them use a pink company Cadillac they drove proudly around town. Empowerment combined with conformity was the dichotomy of the Dallas ladies at the time.
Mary Kay gave a very useful tip to women: You go to bed with your makeup on and get up before your husband so he will not see you ‘au naturel’. We can see clearly that Darlie was no exception. Beauty and grooming were part of her make-up.
While attending conferences in Dallas, I sometimes felt like a Quaker at the masquerade ball. Some of the ladies would try to share with me their makeup routine, which was comprised of three layers of foundation with powder on top, and their tips to ‘volumize’ hair. I had to decline respectfully. I prefer cotton candy at the fair and preferably not on my head. In spite of their effort to try to primp me up, like poor Cinderella’s godmothers at the ball, I stuck to my own brand of retro chic.
But they were lovely, strong, independent ladies who enjoyed looking their best and put much effort into it. It made them feel successful and like the ‘whole package.’ Darlie also spoke with a soft, feminized voice and liked to wear jewelry while living in a big house. Who could blame her? They were living the American dream that was sold to them.
She and her husband started as a young couple and built the company from the ground up. She was a bright girl who managed the business and took care of three children she undeniably adored. So spare me the fact that she was materialistic and superficial because she was only towing the party line on that one. You can’t judge a book by its cover if you do not read it.
It was not enough for prosecutor Greg Davis to call her materialistic and superficial; he declared on TV that she was a psychopath. A totally unsubstantiated claim not supported by the state forensic psychiatrist who never took the stand in her trial.
‘’She has been evaluated, and no one has said that,” Dallas attorney Stephen Cooper said, negating Davis’ psychopath label. He and others have been fighting to save her life since her conviction in 1997. But the State of Texas is stubborn and would rather send a woman to her death than admit it might have erred. Making that kind of claim publicly should have brought a lawsuit but instead, it increased Davis’s popularity.
Legal ethics expert Ellen Yaroshefsky declared that referring to Routier as a psychopath with no factual basis to confirm it is “outrageous”. “Particularly, a public servant who is a minister of justice should not be characterizing defendants in this manner. It is unethical to do so,’’ she said. So give me a break Greg Davis!
Darlie vehemently denied killing her two boys and her story was that an intruder came in while she was sleeping on the couch and her two boys were sleeping on the floor. They had fallen asleep while watching TV on a hot night. He stabbed her and the boys and according to Darlie, ran out through the back. Her screams woke up her husband who rushed downstairs while she was calling 911 to get help for the boys.
When the detectives arrived on the scene, they came to another conclusion after 20 minutes. They determined there had been no intruder. Their investigation was aimed at proving her guilt. She was arrested 12 days later.
The trial lasted nearly a month and the proceedings started with the first witness for the State, Dr. Joanie Mclaine, who explained two defense wounds on Damon’s body, in order to prove he had struggled with his attacker.
The Coroner described the difference between the children’s wounds and Darlie’s ‘hesitation’ wounds, to suggest she had stabbed herself; even if the cut to her neck came 2 millimeters from her carotid artery and could have meant certain death in a matter of minutes. As an adult, it is reasonable to think that she could have fought harder and avoided some of the intensity of the attack.
They also accused her of punching her own arms because the bruising was not as apparent when she was admitted to the hospital. Bruises do not appear right away and how would she have done this while medicated and always surrounded by people? She also had a huge bone deep cut on her arm. According to the prosecution, it was all her own doing.
Officer Waddel, the first policeman on the scene, testified to the carnage and the jury was shown photos of the crime scene. A paramedic testified that he tended to little Damon who was struggling for air with slashed lungs. The next paramedic who tended to Darlie in the ambulance, testified that she did not ask once about the condition of her children.
At a pre-trial hearing four months before the jury trial, Dr. Janis Parchman-Townsend testified to the wounds Darlie had sustained. Davis after inquiring about these injuries, asked, “At the time that you saw Mrs. Routier, did you know whether or not she had breast implants?’’ The bemused doctor replied, “I didn’t know’’. Davis’ goal was to present Darlie in a negative light and he succeeded. He did the same when her husband took the stand. He tried to bring up the topic of cosmetic surgery once again to make her appear shallow and vain. Not unlike his Arizona counterpart, Juan Death Martinez, he tried to turn breast implants into accessories to murder. Give me a break Greg Davis!
The next part of the trial was spent tearing apart the accused. They discussed the evidence and told the jury that the only fingerprints uncovered at the scene were Darlie’s and her two children’s. They failed to turn up any evidence of an intruder. It was determined that the crime scene was staged. The blood found on her nightshirt was attributed to her stabbing and slicing gestures. The last witness was FBI special agent, Al Brantley. He gave all his reasons why he was sure there was no intruder and said that the children were killed by someone they knew.
The prosecution’s case included bloodstain pattern analysis by Tom Bevel. The National Academy of Sciences has stated that this approach to crime scene analysis is “more subjective than scientific.”
Bevel’s testimony contradicted the physical evidence; he testified that because bloodstains on the right shoulder area of Darlie’s nightshirt contained a mixture of her blood and each of her two children’s (one stain contained her blood mixed with Devon’s and the other contained her blood mixed with Damon’s) it showed that she had to have been bleeding when the boys were stabbed.
This contradicts the state’s case because of a sock that was found about 75 yards down an alley behind the Routier’s residence. The sock was partly saturated with Devon and Damon’s blood. This means that by the time the sock was deposited there, the children had already been attacked. However, the state never explained how Darlie could have gotten the sock into the alley without leaving a trail of blood leading to or around where it was found.
As evidenced by the crime scene photographs, she bled a great deal from her injuries. This is a major conundrum because blood from each boy was on the sock and Darlie would have had to have been bleeding when she deposited it. And that famous sock had been in an open basket in the utility room where the intruder supposedly entered. So he could have easily grabbed it and dumped it on his way out.
Lloyd Harrel, who was employed with a private investigation firm, and had worked as a private investigator and for the FBI, testified for the defense that the prosecution’s transcript of Darlie’s 911 call was inaccurate. He also talked about the secret wiretapping of the boy’s grave site by the police. In his professional opinion, it was an unlawful act because there was no warrant.
Harrel testified that when he met Bevel, the bloodstain analyst made statements “materially different’’ than the ones he made under oath on the stand. The officer responsible for the wiretap would later plead the fifth — another ground for a new trial. How can the jury trust an officer taking the fifth?
The tape made at the grave site turned out to be the lightning rod of the trial. The prosecution was preoccupied with Darlie’s behavior and wanted to catch her doing something wrong. So they illegally wiretapped the events of June 14, which was Devon’s birthday. He would have turned seven years old on that day so the Routier family and their friends brought balloons and trinkets to decorate the grave. Darlie’s sister had bought cans of Silly String which Darlie sprayed with gusto while smiling and chewing gum. The local media were there and filmed the gathering.
It was played at trial and the jury, during deliberations, watched the 21 second segment of Darlie chewing gum, laughing and spraying Silly String, 8 or 9 times. If they would have bothered to watch the rest of it, they would have seen a family praying and crying together. But they were fixated on this clip.
Prosecutors would claim that such frivolity was not befitting of a mother in mourning. Darlie was taking medication for anxiety and depression, prompting Davis to pose the question, “Are you trying to blame your behavior, shooting Silly String, laughing and giggling on any medication?” Darlie quite rightly replied, “No, I am not blaming my behavior, I don’t think there is anything to blame”.
The prosecutor said publicly that when he saw the Silly String video on the news, he knew she had committed the crime. He said ‘’it disgusted me, it troubled me, it’s inconceivable.’’ Give me a break Greg Davis!
What I see as a big problem in the prosecution’s case is the kitchen knife used in the attack; when they tested it for DNA, they only found Darlie and Damon’s blood on it. Devon’s blood was not on it. They tried Darlie for the murder of Damon only, knowing full well that their case would have been in jeopardy with only one bloody knife in the house. It might have meant the intruder left with the other one.
Many other elements of the case are troubling and contradictory. The prosecution contended that Darlie cut her own throat while standing over the sink. But the blood on her pillow and its cover supports that her throat was cut while she was sleeping on the couch. Pictures were entered as evidence at trial. They also found towels in the living room and hallway confirming that she had wet them in the sink, contrary to the state’s theory. Neighbors even saw a strange car parked near the house which supported the intruder’s theory.
The chain of custody for her nightshirt was problematic. It was cut and removed by a paramedic and the bloodstains not preserved. Instead, it was placed in bags and taken to the fire station. We don’t even know if it was mixed with Damon’s clothing or not. There was blood at the bottom of the bag meaning it could have seeped from one area to the other. It should have been inadmissible because of the possibility of cross-contamination.
They did not contemplate that maybe her husband had hired someone to kill his family. Not probable but surely more plausible than his wife cutting her own throat and being covered with deep bruises from her wrists to her underarms. If she was so vain, would she have disfigured herself this way? They say she suffered from postpartum depression after her third child and that they had financial troubles and frequent fights. Since when does that constitute evidence?
Darin Routier had tried to get someone to rob his house for the Insurance money and even to have his car stolen. Would it be so farfetched to investigate if he wanted his family gone also to collect the money? Or did they ever consider that Darlie could have had a psychotic episode instead of being a cold blood killer? And if you can’t explain how or why an intruder came in, does that mean it did not happen?
A perusal of their business accounts flies in the face of the prosecution’s theory that they were in dire financial straits. As far as not paying the mortgage, June was the only month in arrears because of the trauma of the tragedy. And it remained unpaid afterwards as Darin did not want to go back to that house. It went into foreclosure.
The prosecution said there were no fingerprints from the intruder but a bloody one was found on the glass table. They said it was from one of the boys, but conveniently, they were not fingerprinted. The Routiers had to have them exhumed to get their fingerprints. And surprise, it did not belong to them or to any member of the family.
And the biggest blunder of the case is the original trial transcript. They found 33,000 mistakes and they were serious ones. The court reporter eventually lost her license. She had even lied to a Judge about the existence of audiotapes of the trial. She pretended there was only static on them because she did not want to upset the judge and force another trial due to her mistakes. This should have automatically resulted in a new trial.
After Darlie was found guilty and given the death penalty, one juror came forward to say he made a mistake. He declared that he felt pressured by other jurors and could not have voted guilty if he had seen photos of her injuries not shown at trial.
The testimony of some of the nurses who attended to Darlie was also suspect. They gathered in the prosecutor’s office for the usual pre-trial meeting and then testified that she was cold and unfeeling. But the nurse’s notes kept at the station told a different story; it was written that she was very distraught, upset and crying all the time.
So with no expert testimony about Darlie being unlikely to pose a future danger, the jury gave her death instead of a life sentence.
Almost 17 years have passed since Darlie was sentenced to die and there have been no sign of the psychopathy claimed by the then-Dallas Country Assistant District Attorney Greg Davis. And she still claims her innocence.
Every morning on death row, Darlie starts the day with Scripture reading and prayers with other inmates. She tries to help them as much as she can with writing or any other task she can be useful at. She makes the best of a bad situation. Her family, supporters and defense team soldier on and remain hopeful she will be eventually set free. Her former husband has always believed in her innocence. He hung on for the longest time but finally filed for divorce in 2011 to move on from the ‘limbo’ they were in since her arrest.
Davis was right about one thing; this Southern belle does have a lot in common with Scarlett O’Hara. Resourceful and strong and not unlike the movie character, she has raised herself above adversity. Who could forget the classic old clip of Carol Burnett’s sketch as Scarlett going down the stairs of Tara wearing a curtain dress with the rod on her shoulders and declaring, “I saw it in a window and I just couldn’t resist.’’
Not unlike Scarlett making herself a dress out of curtains during hard times, Darlie has managed, even on death row, to keep her dignity and to take pictures of herself that could pass for glamour shots, while wearing her white prison jumpsuit. She is allowed to buy basic beauty products at the commissary and every morning, she makes sure to keep her spirits up by doing her hair and makeup. Some would call it vain, I call it survival. She is a survivor and she will not be ‘Gone with the Wind.’ Let’s hope she eventually gets a chance to hug her son Drake who was diagnosed with leukemia. There was plenty of reasonable doubt in this case and she deserved a fair trial.
And frankly my dear Greg Davis, many of us do give a damn!
Greg Davis was indicted in Collin County by a grand jury in 2010 on a charge of tampering with a governmental record, a state jail felony punishable by up to two years in jail. State District Judge David Brabham granted the motion to quash. Apparently, the indictment wording was too vague. Davis declined to comment. Davis was not retained by District Attorney Greg Willis who took over. He was promoted to First Assistant District Attorney of McLennan County in 2013.
According to Geoffrey Hazard, considered a leading national expert on ethics in the legal profession, “The public should have been shocked at Davis’s courtroom behavior. Hazard said that if Davis had tried such tactics in California where judges have exceptionally high professional standards, he would not have gotten into the second sentence with that.’’
“You’ve got a zoo there,’’ he said, referring to the Routier trial.
Nevertheless, Davis’ tactics went largely unchallenged by the judge – perhaps because at times he may not even have been aware of them. It was detailed in more than 400 pages of copious, handwritten trial notes that Tolle appeared to fall sleep at least 16 times while Routier was on trial.