Monday, February 28, 2005

Just do the test

Gov. Mark Warner of Virginia is still dragging his feet on whether to order DNA testing for Roger Coleman, who was executed years ago despite doubts of his guilt.

One wonders what death penalty proponents are afraid of. If they are so certain that we are getting it right 100 percent of the time in terms of the guilt of people we're executing, then what's the harm in testing to make sure? Oh, wait: Maybe they realize, deep down, that the death penalty is a government program -- and government programs aren't perfect.

Here's a story from the Roanoke Times on the continuing saga of Roger Coleman:

Coleman case still unsettled in many minds----Gov. Warner still has not decided whether to order a DNA test that might prove Coleman's innocence.

Jack Payden-Travers didn't have to say what he was calling about. All he had to say was, "This is Jack."

"I can tell you what Jack's question is going to be," Gov. Mark Warner said last Tuesday during a call-in show on WVTF public radio.

Sure enough, the head of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty was calling - again - to ask the governor to order DNA testing that could determine whether the state executed an innocent man.

For the past 2 years, Warner has been considering the request from Centurion Ministries, a group that believes Roger Keith Coleman was executed in 1992 for a rape and murder he did not commit.

Warner promised last week that he will make a decision "very soon."

Although DNA has been used to exonerate 13 people on death row since 1993 nationwide, there has never been a case in which posthumous testing proved the innocence of an executed man, according to the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington D.C.

With public support for capital punishment weakening, scientific proof that the system is not fail-safe "would be more than just a blip" in the process, said Richard Dieter, executive director of the group.

"Those who don't want to see an innocent person executed would realize this is a distinct possibility," Dieter said. "It's not just a theoretical problem."

To read the whole story go here.


Jessica said...

if they have nothing to be scared of, then they should do it. keep me updated!

Anonymous said...

Coleman was quite guilty of the murder of Wanda McCoy. The 1992 DNA tests confirmed that his rare blood type was found at the scene and that, combined with the spermatazoa found on the victim, put the killer in a subcategory of 2/10th of one percent of the population. Coleman fit into that subset. Additionally, there was no sign of forced entry at the McCoy house that night -- his victim would have only opened the door at night to three men - her husband, her father and her brother in law, Roger Coleman. Of the three, only Coleman's whereabouts were sketchy at the time of the murder.

Coleman's defense team tried to cast blame on neighbor Donnie Ramey as being the killer, but alas, he was able to prove that he had a blood type other than that which was found in the McCoy house.

The Coleman lawyers tried to claim that Ramey had confessed to the McCoy murder to a neighbor, Teresa Horn, who subsequently and suddenly died. However, Horn had been visited by defense attorneys, who had advised her of a potential financial reward if she could produce something that would set Coleman free. Her death, by the way, was the result of a painkiller drug overdose, there wasn't any foul play involved.

There is no need to re-test the evidence in this case. Coleman, who had previously served time in prison for a 1977 attack and attempted rape of Grundy resident, Barbara Ratliff, had plenty of time and opportunity to commit this awful crime against his sister in law Wanda McCoy.

Let the case rest.

Anonymous said...

Whoever wrote the comments above must not know enough detail about the case to make an informed decision. I encourage everyone to read the book that chronicles Roger Coleman's store. May God Have Mercy, A True Story of Crime and Punishment. It is impossible for anyone who reads the book to know for sure if Roger Coleman is innocent or guilty, but it would be obvious to anyone that he didn't receive due process. My only other comment is that if there is testing available that could solve this case once and for all, it should be done. I would hope the Governor will do the right thing and allow the test. I hope his moral values are such that his carreer success wouldn't interfear with his decision.

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Anonymous said...

The 1992 DNA testing COULD NOT confirm 100% certainty. Current tests could.

Also, to the above blogger, there WERE signs of forced entry (a pry mark on the door) that was left out of the trial, as well as an unknown fingerprint that was never identified. There was also soil on Wanda's body that was never tested, meaning she could have been (and probably was) attacked while she was outside (I've heard it mentioned she might have been taking out the trash).

Why are people so scared to let the test be done? If the Governor and the prosecutors are so sure of his guilt, have the test done and be done with it.

I think it's because they are afraid that they will be shown as murderers themselves.

Anonymous said...

yes. that's right. let it be tested and done with. why should the governor be scared of? after all the guy is already dead. what about the guy who said that Coleman was with him that night. He could be the accomplice. you already got one murderer punished. catch the other monkey! dont let him go free.

Anonymous said...

You guys only know some of the story. What you do not realize is that the evidence frozen in a lab is that of 1/5th of a drop of semen. The evidence is very fragile, considering that its a very small amount. That and the fact that the state of VA is doubtful adds to the time delay.

Anonymous said...

What has been left out of this debate thus far is that what officials are affraid of is the potential blow to the pro-death penalty camp. If the test exonerates Coleman, this would provide powerful proof that the justice system is, in fact, fallable and that since it cannot be perfect, we must leave open the oppertunity to correct our wrongs. So since death cannot be undone, we must allow for life terms so that in future cases, should evidence arrise after the fact, those wrongly imprisoned can be exonerated.

Vercingetorix said...

The DNA tests won't blow the lid off my opinion of the death penalty. Coleman wasn't an innocent man - he was a pervert that had done time previously for attempted rape. Hardly an "innocent" man. I would have supported the death penalty for him on his first act of perversion - whether or not he actually completed the act.

Anonymous said...

Well, the test has been done and it proved that Coleman was the murder. The justice system worked in this case!

Anonymous said...

Sorry folks, it seems the test ordered by Gov. Warner showed that Coleman was in fact guilty of the murder of Wanda McCoy. Time to move on.

Anonymous said...

Guilty, proven by DNA analysis. To everyone that was convinced of Coleman's innocence, this is a perfect example of how easy it is to be fooled by a liar with no conscience. I know that you meant well, but unfortunately, there are some very bad people out there and Coleman was definitely one of them.

Anonymous said...


Runs the tests...oops. Nevermind. Let's finally let the dead rest.





Anonymous said...

Guilty!!!!!! Now you guys can reflect on what he did to Wanda McCoy.

Anonymous said...

I read the book "May God Have Mercy" also, but being from Grundy, Virginia it only served to convince me of Roger Coleman's guilt and not his innocence. Several times while reading the book I was shocked at the blatant and self-serving lies told by Tucker in order to prove his theory of Coleman’s innocence. At least now, by eliminating the remaining 0.2% chance that the DNA found inside Wanda McCoy was not Coleman’s, we can finally get some relief from the liberal TV crews that have been hounding our citizens for the past couple of days. All those in-depth interviews and hours of video footage soon to be thrown in the garbage bin. There will be no A&E, True Crime, or American Justice documentaries that portray our citizens as a bunch of mob-mentality hillbillies that lynched that poor Roger Coleman. The footage was only to be used to make us look like idiots in the 0.2% chance that the DNA evidence was inconclusive. I guess they will have to move on to their next victim.

Anonymous said...

What an evil person to have continued to pretend to be innocent, and allowed good people to spend thousands of hours and money trying to prove his innocence.

Anonymous said...

"Stop the presses --it turns out that rapists and killers
are also liars," Michael Paranzino, president of a
group called Throw Away the Key, said in a statement.

Anonymous said...

Guess now all you bleeding heart liberals will shut up now the new DNA test results are in and Coleman was guilty of the crime. I wonder if Time magazine will put him back on the cover and issue an apology and now declare him guilty, I doubt it because that doesn't sell magazines to admit you supported a Killer!

Anonymous said...

Ted Bundy protested that he was innocent, too -- all the way to the electric chair.

Maybe they'll meet in the Afterlife, shoveling coal together in Hell.

Captain Midnight said...

It's been proven that he did it. The news is in.

He did it, and he lied about doing it. It's a shocker, I know.

- Captain Midnight

Anonymous said...

Yes, he lied. But the five men who were exonerated of their crimes (rape in most cases) by DNA tests ordered by Gov. Warner in the past few months--told the truth. Five men,five lives; and more DNA is being tested even as we speak: DNA samples that were saved for posterity by a conscientious medical examiner, now six years dead. How many more "liars" do you suppose will be exonerated? "Liars", by the way, who had in most cases ALREADY SERVED THEIR SENTENCES. And do you honestly believe that none of those yet to be proven innocent, are men on death row, or men already executed?

Those of you who gloat about the results of a single negative test, should hang your heads in shame. I have always supported the death penalty. No more.