Darlie's Defense

Prosecuting attorneys portrayed her as a pampered, shallow housewife--the tacky, nouveau riche peroxide blonde bombshell who lived beyond her means in a $200,000 home, with a Jaguar in the driveway and a 35-foot cabin cruiser. Bored by motherhood and strapped for cash, they said, she killed her sons in 1996 and staged the crime scene to make it appear someone else had done the deed, even to the point of slashing her own throat. From death row in Texas, Darlie Routier, now 30, has continued to protest her innocence since her 1997 conviction. And she and her attorneys have found some fresh ammunition. Wearing a dingy white prison uniform open at the neck--and revealing a 10-inch, crescent-shaped scar--Routier spoke exclusively to Newsweek's Ellise Pierce.

NEWSWEEK: How are you doing here?
Routier: I can't complain as far as how I'm talked to or how I'm treated. I do remember when I first got here, I went over to Medical to get a physical. And I remember someone screaming out of a window "You baby-killer bitch!" I don't know who it was. But that was a long time ago.

What do you think of the state's case against you?
Part of the state's theory was 'Here is this cold-blooded, heartless woman that did this because she was tired of motherhood' . . . It's so stupid. I mean Devon and Damon were my oldest boys. They could do things for themselves. They were more independent. They're saying I'm going to murder my oldest children, but leave the baby that requires all the time and the attention? And if I were going to plan this, why wouldn't I have down what the intruder looked like? I would have had the perfect little alibi. But the thing that's so frustrating is I really can't see the man's face. I saw him walk out of the utility room, but I can't remember his face. It was dark in the house. The only light was from the TV.

How do you deal with the debate over your lack of memory?
It drives me crazy. It is soooo frustrating. First of all, you have the assumption. People think 'Oh, she's lying.' I didn't really understand it either until I started talking to the doctors, and to the psychologist. That is a very normal thing in a traumatic situation--a rape, a car accident. It's very common. But if you haven't experienced it, you don't know.

The jury was shown 15 seconds of videotape, taken a week after the killings by a local TV news photographer. You were wearing a halter top and cut-off shorts and smacking gum, spraying silly string over the grave of your son, Devon, who would have been seven that day. Do you think you were convicted because of the silly string?
Oh, yeah, definitely. I've heard it too many times out of the jurors own mouths. Just from what [juror] Charlie Samford said, they watched it nine or ten times. That tells me you can be sentenced to die for a can of silly string . . . I was in shock. I never do drugs, medication, pills, anything. [But then] I was taking Valium, muscle relaxers, prescription pain medication plus the medication for the wounds. I was in la-la land to say the least . . . The media had that tape for four or five days but they waited until I was arrested to show it. And they didn't even get the whole day, the prayer service [that took place earlier] or everyone going around talking and crying and hugging.

What are you hoping for at this point?
Of course I hope for a new trial. But more than that, I want complete exoneration. I want to find who did this. Devon and Damon deserve justice. I want justice. I deserve justice. We haven't gotten any yet.

Have you had suicidal thoughts?
There are times when I just want to lie down and fall asleep and just not ever wake up. I just wish I'd have a heart attack or something. You get tired of it. And you get tired of seeing the family hurt, having to go through this and the stress, and the emotional roller coaster, up and down. Every time I see my little boy I want to hold him so bad. And now he's getting older and he's asking why I'm not out there with him and when I'm coming home and it's so hard. I mean, what do you say? He's four years old.

How do you feel these days about the death penalty?
My convictions have totally turned around on the death penalty. Before I was convicted, I was pro-death penalty and now I don't believe in it. I get a lot of flack from some people. Some say things like 'Well, your children were murdered . . . You should want this.' That's what gets brainwashed into people by politicians, that the death penalty will bring you peace and healing. And what I find is that all that has to come from inside yourself. How could I ever sit and watch [the killer of my children] being strapped to the gurney? How could I watch poison being pumped into the body, then the gasping for breath, and call that victory?

People have done it.
I know. I understand the pain of a mother who has lost her children and thinking the death penalty isn't good enough. I do. I have that. But going through this system as a human being, seeing the flaws and knowing that they do convict and can execute people . . . well, that's not good enough. There have got to be some changes made. It's still wrong and it's still murder--legal murder.