An upcoming hearing in San Jacinto County, Texas, will determine whether DNA testing can proceed in the case of Claude Jones, who was executed in 2000 for allegedly killing a liquor store clerk during a robbery. Jones was convicted based on the similarity of a hair from the crime scene to his hair and the testimony of another man who admitted a role in the crime in exchange for a lighter sentence (that man has since signed a sworn affidavit saying his testimony against Jones was not true). Jones always claimed he was innocent.
Last month, the Innocence Project joined with the Texas Observer and other innocence organizations in Texas in filing motions asking the state to preserve the hair evidence and to allow DNA testing to proceed in the case. Oral arguments will be heard on the motions at an upcoming hearing.
And an editorial in today’s Dallas Morning News calls on a state judge and prosecutors to allow testing that could determine whether a miscarriage of justice has occurred. The public has a right to know if a person was wrongfully executed in Texas, the paper says.
The case in San Jacinto County, north of Houston, would be the first time hair analysis had been exposed as faulty after a defendant's death. County officials must be prepared for the fallout if the initial test proves wrong. After all, we need to know everything we can about cases prosecutors depicted as airtight.
Prosecutors argue that they brought evidence against the accused in addition to the hair analysis, including crucial testimony from an accomplice who was out to cut a deal. The DNA tests could lead to a rough debate over whether such self-serving testimony should have been enough to send a man to his death. (The accomplice got 10 years.)
Read the full editorial here
. (Dallas Morning News, 10/03/2007)