News 11.29.07

Alabama editorial: Death row DNA refusal is mind-boggling

An editorial in today’s Birmingham News again calls on Alabama Gov. Bob Riley to delay the execution of Thomas Arthur to allow for DNA tests in his case. The Innocence Project does not represent Arthur and doesn’t take a position on his guilt or innocence, but we have asked Riley to grant the testing. In September, Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld asked Riley to seek the full truth in Arthur’s case before putting him to death.

Earlier this month, the Innocence Project wrote to Riley’s policy director, who had requested guidance on how the governor’s office should approach requests for post-conviction DNA testing in capital cases.  After outlining general guidelines, the Innocence Project again requested testing in Arthur’s case.  “We believe that the Arthur case easily fits within the category of cases where DNA testing should be granted,” the letter said.  “Here, science is capable of determining the truth.  In fact, DNA testing has the potential to conclusively prove that Mr. Arthur was not the perpetrator of this crime and to identify the real killer.”   

Today’s editorial calls on Riley to act now:

Had the technology existed at the time of his trial, surely DNA tests would have been conducted on the evidence, which includes hair and semen. It's routinely used now on the front end of criminal cases to confirm guilt or to eliminate suspects.

It boggles the mind, then, that the state of Alabama won't order DNA tests before proceeding to execute Arthur on Dec. 6.

True, the U.S. Supreme Court this week denied Arthur's legal bid for DNA testing. But the courts are bound by legal timelines and rules. We may not always like those constraints, but at least we can see the reasoning behind the decision.

Gov. Bob Riley is under no such rules. He can order DNA testing in this case, and there's no good reason for him not to do it.


Read today’s full editorial

. (Birmingham News, 11/29/07)

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