New DNA evidence has put in doubt the guilt of a man executed in 2000. A single strand of hair was used to corroborate testimony by Claude Jones’ supposed accomplices in the 1989 trial of a liquor store robbery and murder.
Barry Scheck, co-founder of the renowned Innocence Project, said the new evidence does not give definitive proof of Jones’ innocence, but it does highlight the failings of the office of then-Gov. George W. Bush, who was serving his final days as Texas governor before taking the presidential oath the following month in January of 2001. Despite Bush’s past willingness to postpone executions for prisoners who requested such testing, the governor’s office failed to notify Bush that Jones was requesting the hair be scrutinized by DNA testing. At a minimum, testing would have resulting in a new trial. Under Texas law, accomplice testimony is not sufficient evidence to convict someone of the death penalty.
At the original trial, the prosecutor’s forensics expert testified that the hair could not have come from Jones’ confessed accomplice, Timothy Jordan, or the murdered store owner, only from Jones. A few years after Jones’ 2000 execution, Jordan in an affidavit recanted his testimony that Jones was the gunman and said he had been pressured by police. “I testified to what they told me to say,” he said.
This is the second case this year in which a Texas execution has been put in doubt. The first came when independent experts questioned whether an arson murder was an arson at all in the case of the recently executed Cameron Todd Willingham.
More of the AP story can be read here.