The big impact of ABC’s The Last Defense is not at all what we expected.
The moral of the show is less about whether Darlie Routier is guilty or innocent and more about the problematic bias in our legal system. This is typical of true-crime shows. For example, The Staircase highlighted how Michael Peterson was judged not for the evidence related to the crime but for the fact that he was a bisexual man. Same with Making A Murderer. Steven Avery was disliked by the local police and, therefore, became a suspect — with police even going so far as to plant evidence.
The Last Defense presented a similar defense for Routier: that the prosecution wrongfully painted her as a sexy, selfish woman with breast implants and a desire for freedom from her family. With these motives in mind, they argued that she murdered her children to collect a measly $10,000 life insurance policy and live the “good life” as a childless woman. Never mind the fact that her infant son, who was upstairs sleeping, was never targeted in the crime. Never mind the fact that the Routiers spent more than $10,000 on funeral expenses alone. Never mind the fact that Darlie had no record of violence or making violent threats against her family.
Yes, there is a very good chance that Darlie is innocent.
But the most shocking bit of information was the revelation that evidence has been sitting in a box somewhere, waiting for testing, for nine years. Nine freaking years! All while Darlie, possibly an innocent woman, sits on death row.
Darlie’s appellate attorneys are hoping they can prove that someone else was in the house on the night of the murders. There is a mysterious fingerprint, coded 85-J, at the scene that has yet to be run through the database. It reportedly doesn’t match any of the family members. Some claim the fingerprint doesn’t have enough viable points for match testing, but Darlie’s attorneys are arguing otherwise, especially because testing has improved over time. There is also bloody clothing from that night they have ordered to be tested, to see if there is someone else’s blood to be found other than the victims’. So, why the heck has critical testing like this been delayed for nine years? Why does the system move so slowly?
The show doesn’t have an answer. It’s just how the justice system is. And that seems totally unacceptable.
Think of it like this: When we go to the doctor and get a blood test, we get the results back in just a couple of days. If we had to wait nine years for test results, can you imagine the backlash? Testing at the doctor would be obsolete. So, why is it acceptable for lab testing to take this long in a death row case? Why is Darlie behind bars when there could be evidence sitting in a box that proves she’s innocent?
According to the Rowlett Lakeshore Times, Darlie’s mother, Darlie Kee, said testing was expected to be complete by April 2016, but it was delayed because there were other cases ahead of Darlie’s case. So, two years later, we’re still waiting on results.
The only answer seems to be money. As of 2012, Hood County News reported that testing the DNA evidence would cost about $200,000. But those close to Darlie’s case argue that if she is innocent, the expense is more than worth it, especially when you consider that much more money was spent on her trial, not to mention the appeals proceedings.
Kee reportedly said that her husband, Bob, believes money would make a difference in Darlie’s case. Kee said he told her, “If we win the lottery, Darlie’s coming home for sure.”
The only upside to the delays in testing is that Darlie’s execution date is pushed back. This is good if the testing comes back with no new results about a third party entering the home. Again, however, the catch is that an innocent woman could possibly be sitting on death row.
Is a painfully slow justice system actually just? That’s the root of this case and the root of The Last Defense. At this point in the investigation, it doesn’t seem like anyone can say it is just. Given how slowly our system moves, it is not fair or just.