Thursday, January 12, 2006

Roger Coleman's DNA results

By now, many people visiting this blog have heard the news: DNA testing confirms the guilt of Roger Keith Coleman of Virginia.

With Gov. Warner’s decision to order testing, a precedent has been set. Regardless of this outcome, more DNA testing in more death penalty cases – involving both those who currently sit on death row awaiting execution and, where possible, those who have been executed – is something we should all strive for, whether one favors or opposes the death penalty. Those of us who work in this area -- who know the death penalty system inside and out -- strongly suspect that innocent people in this country have been executed in what is known as the “modern” era. And we know that innocent people currently sit on death row. At the very least, we know that at least 122 people have been released from death row because they were wrongfully convicted, and some of these exonerees were released due to DNA testing.

The decision to test was a victory for many. It was a victory for Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, which NCADP is proud to call an affiliate, and which campaigned tirelessly for the tests to be done. It was a victory for the family of Wanda McCoy, which deserved to be absolutely certain of the guilt of the convicted person. And I think it was a victory for all of us who believe that we must always strive to engage in truth-finding.

Below is a statement from Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty.

DNA Testing Sets Precedent

"We are thankful to Gov. Warner for his continuing efforts to advance the cause of justice through the application of the latest scientific advances in DNA technology. His order to test the existent DNA in the case of a man who was executed in 1992, has set a precedent. Had he not done so, no resolution of the persistent question of Mr. Coleman’s guilt or innocence could have been achieved. In cases where issues of possible innocence are unresolved that future scientific developments could lead to resolution it is vital that the evidence be preserved. Virginia’s precedent of the posthumous testing of existent DNA evidence underscores the necessity of the retention of such biological exhibits so that further developments in the testing of DNA evidence can be used to clear up questions of possible innocence of executed individuals. It is now incumbent upon the Commonwealth to enact statutes that require the post-execution preservation of such testable evidence.

"In the vast majority of cases in which DNA is not available or part of the case it is especially critical that the original trial be as fair, complete, and vigorous as possible. In this case we finally can close a chapter with certainty, but in so many cases in which DNA testing is unavailable that certainty can never be attained. And, in too many cases, lingering doubt about the guilt of the executed remains. "

1 comment:

Justice for Conner said...

We're trying to get a DNA test for Jerry Conner who is scheduled for execution on May 12. Prior tests were inconclusive. Jerry says test it and you'll find it's not me.

learn more at