[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----VA.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Jan 12 15:44:06 CST 2006
STATEMENT OF PETER NEUFELD, CO-FOUNDER, THE INNOCENCE PROJECT-----DNA
Results in Coleman Case Finally Reveal the Truth in One Case -- but Don't
Answer Serious Doubts about the Fairness of the Criminal Justice
System,Innocence Project Says
"Today we got just one answer. We need the certainty in every case that we
now have in Roger Keith Coleman's case," says Peter Neufeld
"Today, Virginia Governor Mark Warner's office announced that DNA testing
proves that Roger Keith Coleman committed the rape and murder for which he
was executed in 1992. The Innocence Project, which uses DNA testing to
exonerate wrongfully convicted people and helps reform the criminal
justice system to prevent future injustice, released the following
statement today from Peter Neufeld, Co-Director of the Innocence Project:
"Today, we commend Virginia Governor Mark Warner for his commitment to
learning the truth, once and for all, in the Coleman case. Just as he was
the 1st governor to recently order blanket testing of old non-capital
cases, as soon as 2 men were exonerated following testing of the 1st batch
of 30, he is the 1st and only governor to order posthumous testing in a
"For the sake of victims, the wrongly accused, law enforcement officials
and the public at large, our criminal justice system must be based on
finding the truth. DNA testing can provide certainty in many cases
because it can confirm guilt, demonstrate innocence or help identify the
true perpetrator. We call on governors in every other state to immediately
catalog and test evidence in cases of people with claims of innocence who
have been executed, so that we can have the certainty in every case that
we now have in Roger Keith Coleman's case.
"In the last 3 decades, 1,004 people have been executed in the United
States, and there is critical DNA evidence in many of those cases that has
never been tested. While nobody can say with certainty how may of these
cases there are, nobody honestly doubts their existence or the seriousness
of the questions they raise. Today we got just one answer, and one man
can not speak for the correctness of the verdicts in a thousand other
capital cases. Given the extraordinary number of post-conviction
exonerations and the thousands more cleared by DNA testing while awaiting
trial, questions and doubts about the fairness of our justice system are
pervasive. Nobody can be satisfied about the correctness of one thousand
based on the correctness of one."
Since 1989, according to the Innocence Project, 172 people have been
exonerated based on DNA evidence. Of those, 14 spent time on death row -
including some who were within hours of being executed. For more on the
Innocence Project, affiliated with the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law
at Yeshiva University, go to www.innocenceproject.org
(source: The Innocence Project)
DNA Tests Confirm Guilt of Executed Man
DNA tests released this afternoon confirmed the guilt of a Virginia man
who had proclaimed his innocence in a slaying and rape even as he was
strapped into the state's electric chair in 1992.
Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner (D) said modern-day genetic analysis that was
not available in the early 1990s proves that Roger K. Coleman was present
at the crime.
Blog: The Richmond Report
"We have sought the truth using DNA technology not available at the time
the Commonwealth carried out the ultimate criminal sanction," Warner said
in a statement. "The confirmation that Roger Coleman's DNA was present
reaffirms the verdict and the sanction."
Coleman, a coal miner from the small Appalachian town of Grundy, drew
nationwide attention when he proclaimed his innocence in a series of
newspaper and television interviews in the months before his death. After
he was strapped into the electric chair on May 20, 1992 he declared: "An
innocent man is going to be murdered tonight."
Coleman was convicted and sentenced to death in the 1981 rape and stabbing
of his sister-in-law, 19-year-old Wanda McCoy.
The testing in Coleman's case marks only the 2nd time nationwide that DNA
tests have been performed after the execution of an inmate. In 2000, tests
ordered by a Georgia judge on evidence in the case of Ellis W. Felker, who
was executed in 1996, were inconclusive. Genetic tests exonerated Florida
inmate Frank L. Smith in 2000, several months after he died of natural
causes while awaiting execution.
During Coleman's trial, authorities said there was compelling evidence of
guilt, including hair on McCoy's body that was similar to Coleman's and
the account of a jailhouse informant. Officials also noted that he had
been convicted of attempted rape in 1977.
Coleman said he had an alibi and would not have had time to commit the
killing. Defense attorneys also have gathered affidavits from people who
said another man boasted of killing McCoy. Time magazine featured his case
in a cover story titled "Must This Man Die?"
On the morning of his execution, as L. Douglas Wilder, the governor at the
time, debated his fate, Coleman was secretly taken to a police building
for a lie-detector test. He failed.
Warner's decision to order the testing in Coleman's case kept Virginia in
the forefront of using DNA in criminal cases.
Virginia -- the first state to create a DNA databank to solve crimes --
has become the first to engage in widespread genetic testing in old cases
in an effort to see whether new technology will uncover any wrongful
convictions. After a recent review of 31 criminal cases resulted in the
exoneration of 2 men who spent years in prison for rapes they did not
commit, Warner last month ordered the review of thousands of other cases
from the 1970s and '80s, before the advent of DNA testing. In all, 5 men
who served a total of 91 years in prison have been exonerated in the state
over the past several years.
(source: Washington Post)
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