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


(New York; January 12, 2006) – 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 first governor to recently order blanket testing of old non-capital cases, as soon as two men were exonerated following testing of the first batch of 30, he is the first and only governor to order posthumous testing in a capital case.

“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 three 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.”

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