Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Review of Dateline: Purgatory

Title: Dateline: Purgatory
Author: Kathy Cruz
Publisher: TCU Press
ISBN: 978-0-87565-610-6
Price: $22.96

Non-Fiction, True Crime

In the wake of more than 1,500 exonerations across the country (150 of which were for inmates on death row) and growing demands for reforms within the justice system, award-winning journalist Kathy Cruz uses a new lens to examine the controversial Darlie Routier case - and what may be a true Texas mystery.

In Dateline: Purgatory, Cruz enlists current day legal experts to weigh in on the shocking transgressions that resulted in one of the country's most troubling death penalty convictions. With the help of the infamous death row inmate and a former FBI Special Agent known as "Crimefighter," the veteran journalist would find that her journey through Purgatory was as much about herself as it was about the woman dubbed "Dallas' Susan Smith."

Under a starry sky on the snowy slopes of Purgatory, Colo., Darlie Lynn Peck linked her destiny with that of an ambitious young man from Lubbock, Texas named Darin Routier. Ten years later, a horrific crime known as "6-6-6" would thrust the couple into the national spotlight.

The brutal murders of young Devon and Damon Routier in the early morning hours of June 6, 1996, would put their mother - Darlie Routier - at the heart of one of the most notorious murder cases in modern Texas history - despite her own throat having been slashed to within 2 millimeters of her carotid artery.

The actions of a small town police department and Dallas County's justice system created a perfect storm that swept up the young mother and landed her on death row. There she has remained, in a 9-feet-by-6-feet cell, despite claims of her innocence by those who know her, findings about the alarming fallibility of bloodstain analysis - and her husband's admission that at the time of the murders he was soliciting help to stage a home burglary to commit insurance fraud.

Dateline: Purgatory follows author Kathy Cruz on her journey to investigate the Darlie Routier case. Cruz takes the reader with her as she visits with multiple people to hear about their experiences with Darlie previous to the murders and during the trial. I found myself skimming over the descriptions of Cruz's drive through Texas to meet her interviewees and through multiple pages of reminiscent tales of Darlie's life and experiences previous to the crime. The reason I read this book was to hear the facts and for Cruz to present the proof of Darlie's innocence. Cruz states, "As for me, I realize I have not proven Routier innocent. If anything, I have merely given a voice to those who know her best and have held the justice system to the same harsh scrutiny to which she was held."

This book was not what I expected. It was hard to stay focused as the author included personal accounts of Darlie's life before the crime interwoven with factual evidence from the crime and trial along with random stories of other cases unrelated to Darlie Routier. For example, an entire page described the author standing in line at a haunted house before her phone rang only to spend another page describing how she played phone tag with the true-crime author, Barbara Davis. When the chapter finally started presenting information concerning the Routier case, it was left open-ended suggesting an exciting detail only to leave the reader frustrated. For instance, Barbara Davis mentions she got to read Routier's nurse's notes from the hospital. She stated, "I’ve learned so much that I didn't want to know." This created a hook with expectation, but Cruz never told the readers what Davis found in the nurse’s notes.

This book was more an account of a reporter's experiences as she interviewed people about Darlie Routier along with some accounts of actual court proceedings and evidence used in the case. I did not find an overwhelming amount of evidence to persuade me Darlie was wrongfully convicted, but there was plenty to deem an appeal. Cruz presented multiple facts within her chapters of personal accounts from interviews that did cause concern such as: a sock from the crime scene was found down the road, the judge continuously fell asleep during the trial, her husband admitted to soliciting help to stage a robbery to commit insurance fraud, detectives interviewed Darlie when she was still under the influence of medication right after surgery, and some of the detectives pled the fifth on stand.

In order to persuade the readers of Darlie's innocence, I feel that the text should have followed a chronological timeline of the crime and trial with a clear outline of facts. I did appreciate the truths told about Darlie's experiences in court and the letters she wrote to her aunt. Also, I would love to hear more from her son, Drake, concerning his feelings toward his mom and how he has handled the loss of his family due to this tragedy. His opinions and memories are of far greater worth than pages of Routier history. I feel for Drake and the Routier family. This was a horrible crime that cost the lives of two innocent children and continues to hurt their family and friends.

I applaud Kathy Cruz for taking on this case and giving a voice to those involved. I give this book three out of five stars. You should read Dateline: Purgatory and put yourself inside of the case. Consider the facts and I am sure you will agree. Darlie Routier deserves an appeal to present her case to a judge and jury willing to listen and make a decision without a doubt before convicting her to death. Everyone deserves a fair trial. 

Kathy Cruz is a former reporter for The Dallas Morning News, now working as a staff writer at the Hood County News in Granbury, 35 miles southwest of Fort Worth. She has won numerous Journalist of the Year honors from Texas press associations, as well as many other awards from regional, state and national press associations. She is the co-author of You Might Want to Carry a Gun: Community Newspapers Expose Big Problems in Small Towns. Cruz is the recipient of five awards for excellence in legal reporting, including a Texas Gavel Award and four Stephen Philbin Awards from the Dallas Bar Association – two of which were grand prizes.

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