[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----VIRGINIA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jan 8 23:36:30 CST 2006
VERDICT MAY BRING CHANGES
Gov. Mark Warner took a risky step Thursday when he gave the green light
to retest DNA evidence from a crime committed almost 25 years ago.
Failure to order the retesting, however, would have been even more risky,
especially for those who may find themselves on Virginia's death row in
If it is conclusively proven that Roger Keith Coleman was innocent of
raping and killing his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy, in 1981, Virginia will
have some soul-searching to do - because Coleman was executed for the
crime in 1992, innocent or guilty.
Virginia has lagged only behind Texas in its zeal in applying the death
penalty. That penalty has been applied under the presumption that no
innocent person has gone to the electric chair or under the needle.
If it turns out that Coleman was innocent, as he professed to be up to the
moment of his electrocution, we will have more than some explaining to do.
We will need to engage in a serious re-examination of the fairness of the
Serious questions have already been raised about the fairness of
Virginia's convictions for rape cases by the exoneration of five men. All
have been cleared by DNA evidence, some after having spent much of their
lives behind bars.
As horrible as robbing someone of decades of their life is, knowing we
might have killed an innocent man - perhaps others - is unthinkable.
If DNA evidence clears Roger Keith Coleman, it won't do him a bit of good.
Nor will it assuage our collective consciences. But one thing will be
clear: Virginia, perhaps the entire nation, will not be able to go about
the business of applying the death penalty with confidence. At the very
least, a moratorium on the practice will be appropriate.
(source: Editorial, Staunton News Leader)
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