Saturday, November 13, 2010

Did Texas, George W. Bush Kill An Innocent Man?

While I can see the need for the death penalty on rare occasions, this story shows why we have to be damn careful before enforcing the ultimate penalty:
Claude Jones always claimed that he wasn’t the man who walked into an East Texas liquor store in 1989 and shot the owner. He professed his innocence right up until the moment he was strapped to a gurney in the Texas execution chamber and put to death on Dec. 7, 2000. His murder conviction was based on a single piece of forensic evidence recovered from the crime scene—a strand of hair—that prosecutors claimed belonged to Jones.

But DNA tests completed this week at the request of the Observer and the New York-based Innocence Project show the hair didn’t belong to Jones after all. The day before his death in December 2000, Jones asked for a stay of execution so the strand of hair could be submitted for DNA testing. He was denied by then-Gov. George W. Bush.

A decade later, the results of DNA testing not only undermine the evidence that convicted Jones, but raise the possibility that Texas executed an innocent man. The DNA tests—conducted by Mitotyping Technologies, a private lab in State College, Pa., and first reported by the Observer on Thursday—show the hair belonged to the victim of the shooting, Allen Hilzendager, the 44-year-old owner of the liquor store.

Because the DNA testing doesn’t implicate another shooter, the results don’t prove Jones’ innocence. But the hair was the only piece of evidence that placed Jones at the crime scene. So while the results don’t exonerate him, they raise serious doubts about his guilt. As with the now-infamous Cameron Todd Willingham arson case, the key forensic evidence in a Texas death penalty case has now been debunked.


  1. This is why I have said in the past, that I support the death penalty, when warranted, ONLY *AFTER* the guilt of the suspect has been sufficiently proved beyond a shadow of a doubt. In this case, where the only thing the prosecution had was a strand of hair, I would have opposed lethal injection; basing the decision to end a man's life on a single strand of hair does not strike me as wise.

  2. The answer to your question is NO...he did not. They system may have executed a man who did not pull the trigger but by no means was this man "innocent". The DNA evidence did not exonerate this criminal. He was there so he could have been the shooter. I guess this goes down as...if you don't want to be executed don't go robbing and shooting people with your dirt bag friends.