Friday, November 12, 2010

DNA test casts doubt on executed man's guilt

DALLAS — A DNA test on a strand of hair has cast doubt on the guilt of a Texas man who was executed 10 years ago during George W. Bush's final months as governor for a liquor-store robbery and murder.

The single hair had been the only piece of physical evidence linking Claude Jones to the crime scene. But the DNA analysis found it did not belong to Jones and instead may have come from the murder victim.

Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, a New York legal center that uses DNA to exonerate inmates and worked on Jones' case, acknowledged that the hair doesn't prove an innocent man was put to death. But he said the findings mean the evidence was insufficient under Texas law to convict Jones.

Jones, a career criminal who steadfastly denied killing the liquor store owner, was executed by injection on Dec. 7, 2000, in the middle of the turbulent recount dispute in Florida that ended with Bush elected president.

As the execution drew near, Jones was pressing the governor's office for permission to do a DNA test on the hair. But the briefing papers Bush was given by his staff didn't include the request for the testing, and Bush denied a reprieve, according to state documents obtained by the Innocence Project.

"It is absolutely outrageous that no one told him that Claude Jones was asking for a DNA test," Scheck said. "If you can't rely on the governor's staff to inform him, something is really wrong with the system."

A spokesman for Bush, who is on a book tour, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Read the rest here.

2 comments: said...

I believe the death penalty is a valid exercise of government power (and that there may be many good reasons to exercise that power). But I've come to the conclusion that--like many other "rights"--it is something we should voluntarily decide not to exercise.

John (Ad Orientem) said...
I think that is a very well reasoned approach and one I agree with. I am not morally opposed to the DP. My opposition to it is mostly on utilitarian grounds.