Wrongful death by execution

Hangman's knotEveryone knows that the justice system isn’t 100% right 100% of the time.  There have been innocent people found guilty in many different areas of the law.   It’s nearly impossible to determine if all the inmates in prison are innocent, like they claim, but DNA has cleared some of their convictions.  Some of the evidence brought forth by DNA did not come in time for several who were executed for their crimes first.

The Claude Jones case is a classic example of DNA clearing a conviction.   Mr. Jones was executed in 2000 for the murder of an owner of a liquor store.  On a November day in 1989 Claude Jones was in a car with another man.  One man went into the store and shot the owner while the other remained in the car.  There were several witnesses who were nearby, but were unable to determine which man entered the store.  Three men were eventually linked to the death, Jones being one of them.  Jones maintained his innocence in the death, claiming he never entered the store.  The other two men both made a deal and testified that Jones was the shooter; they were spared the death penalty.   The only evidence found again Jones was a single hair that was found in the store.  A forensics expert testified at the trial that the strand of hair appeared to have come from Jones.  He was convicted and sentenced to death.   During the 1990 trial, DNA was in its infancy and was not able to match Jones’ DNA to the hair.   Jones’ lawyer filed a stay of execution that was denied by the appeals courts of Texas. Just prior to the execution, he also requested retesting of the hair now that DNA had been improved.  He was again denied.  Claude Jones was executed.  In 2007 the hair strand was retested at the insistence of the Innocence Project.  It was proven to be a hair from the victim.

As science continues to make advances in all areas there will be more and more ways to prove guilt or innocence in a criminal case.  Unfortunately for some, this advancement has come too late.  Wrongful death by execution is, hopefully, rare.  It does open up a question whether or not there is anyone who can be held responsible when the wrong suspect pays the ultimate price for a crime he didn’t commit.

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