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Posted: 1/16/2006 1:42:46 PM EDT
From:
DNA proves executed rapist/murderer guilty

DNA tests confirm executed Virginia man was guilty
By WARREN FISKE, The Virginian-Pilot
© January 13, 2006
Last updated: 12:39 PM

RICHMOND — New DNA tests in a 1981 rape and murder have affirmed the guilt of a Virginia coal miner who professed his innocence up to the moment he was electrocuted.

Gov. Mark Warner said a lab analysis released Thursday “reaffirms the verdict and sanction” against Roger Keith Coleman for killing his sister-in-law in the small Appalachian town of Grundy.

As his May 20, 1992, execution date approached, Coleman drew international attention by professing his innocence through a series of media interviews. Pope John Paul II issued a plea for clemency. Time magazine ran a cover story about the case.

While he was being strapped in the electric chair, Coleman declared: “An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight. When my innocence is proven, I hope Americans will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all civilized countries have.”

The DNA tests, conducted by scientists in a Toronto laboratory, left little doubt that sperm found on the body of 19-year-old Wanda McCoy belonged to Coleman.

“The probability that a randomly selected individual unrelated to Roger Coleman would coincidentally share the observed DNA profile is estimated to be 1 in 19 million,” according to the report released Thursday.

Wanda McCoy was found raped, stabbed and nearly beheaded in her home in the coal mining town of Grundy.

Prosecutors said other evidence pointed to Coleman as the killer. There was no sign of forced entry at McCoy’s house, leading investigators to think McCoy knew her attacker; Coleman was previously convicted of the attempted rape of a teacher and was charged with exposing himself to a librarian two months before the murder; and a pubic hair found on McCoy’s body was consistent with Coleman’s hair.

Death penalty opponents and several media organizations had called for the tests for several years to take advantage of DNA technology not available when Coleman was executed. State courts rejected the petitions. Warner, who supports capital punishment, ordered the tests last month. Had the analysis found Coleman uninvolved in the murder, it would have been the first time in the United States that an executed person would have been exonerated by a DNA test.

The genetic evidence had been held in the freezer of a California laboratory by Edward Blake, a scientist who conducted primitive tests of Coleman’s DNA in 1990 and concluded that Coleman was among 2 percent of the population that could have produced the sample. Blake was prohibited from conducting modern DNA tests without permission from the state but refused to return the evidence to Virginia for fear it would be destroyed.

Blake agreed to release the sample after years of negotiation with state officials and Centurion Ministries in New Jersey, which had been trying since 1988 to prove that Coleman was innocent .

James McCloskey, executive director of Centurion Ministries, said he was stunned by the results and felt betrayed by Coleman. “I had always believed in Roger’s complete innocence,” he said. “In my view, he had no motive, means or opportunity to do this crime. I now know I was wrong. Indeed, this is a bitter pill to swallow.” Do you think this will cause this goof to stop believing criminals?

McCloskey said he informed Coleman’s family members about the results and that they were surprised and in despair. He and other death penalty opponents praised Warner for ordering the tests and encouraged other governors to follow his example.

Virginia is one of the first states to conduct DNA tests on old crimes. Recent DNA retesting of 31 Virginia criminal cases resulted in the exonerations of two men imprisoned for rape. Warner last month ordered the review of thousands of more cases.

Nationally since 1989, 172 convicted people have been exonerated of crimes because of DNA testing, according to Peter Neufeld, co-founder of the Innocence Project, a national nonprofit legal program which examines death-row cases. Fourteen of the people were on death rows.

“Today we got one answer, and one man can not speak for the correctness of verdicts in a thousand other capital cases,” Neufeld said of the Coleman results.

Thomas Scott, a Grundy attorney who prosecuted Coleman, said he expected the result. “I never had any reason to doubt his guilt,” he said Thursday evening. “The evidence was overwhelming.”

Scott said he hoped the tests would bring closure to Wanda McCoy’s family.

Attorney General-elect Bob McDonnell said the results should bolster confidence in Virginia’s use of capital punishment. “Today is further proof that this is exactly the manner in which the death penalty has been, and will continue to be, employed in the commonwealth.”


Reach Warren Fiske at (804) 697-1565 or warren.fiske@pilotonline.com.

© 2006 HamptonRoads.com/PilotOnline.com
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 1:47:14 PM EDT
DNA evidence works both ways.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 2:07:28 PM EDT
When my brothers and I were kids, and mom would smack one of us unjustly, we'd complain and say one of the other brothers did it. This is what my mom would say:

"Well if you didn't do it, then thats for what you did when I wasn't looking!"

Has the state has executed men who were not guilty of the crime for which they were put to death? Absolutely yes!

But if you could have god like omniscience, and you named all the executed men that were put to death for a crime they did not commit, that list would be almost exclusively populated by individuals to which "Mom's Rule" would apply. I'm sure you would find they had done something that entitled them to a little killing.

Purely innocent men executed? Exceedingly rare, particularly in modern times.

Vic.


Link Posted: 1/16/2006 2:13:15 PM EDT
I have no problem with executing a rapist and a murderer, but couldn't htye have waited until the DNA test results came in? I mean what if they had proven that he actually WAS innocent?
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 2:23:03 PM EDT
[Last Edit: 1/16/2006 2:26:12 PM EDT by TrickyVic]

Originally Posted By motown_steve:
I have no problem with executing a rapist and a murderer, but couldn't htye have waited until the DNA test results came in? I mean what if they had proven that he actually WAS innocent?



DNA testing as we know it today is a realtively recent phenomenon.

From the article "Edward Blake, a scientist who conducted primitive tests of Coleman’s DNA in 1990"

Also see "Mom's Rule" above.

Vic.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 2:25:59 PM EDT
Glad he wasn't innocent, he got what he deserved. So long as there is a chance that someone on DR is innocent there are going to be groups out there trying to prove that, and I don't really see anything wrong with that.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 2:53:39 PM EDT

Originally Posted By motown_steve:
I have no problem with executing a rapist and a murderer, but couldn't htye have waited until the DNA test results came in? I mean what if they had proven that he actually WAS innocent?



He was executed in 1992:

"As his May 20, 1992, execution date approached, Coleman drew international attention by professing his innocence through a series of media interviews. Pope John Paul II issued a plea for clemency. Time magazine ran a cover story about the case...."
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 4:18:38 PM EDT
Bump for the night crew.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 8:27:36 PM EDT
Bump for the mid watch.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 8:39:00 PM EDT
Sucks to be him right now!


Ahh I'll bet he can smell the sulphur.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 8:47:00 PM EDT
Was this the one they were blaring over the TV for that "Innoncence Project" crap?
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 8:54:37 PM EDT
A criminal who lied. Wow.
Link Posted: 1/16/2006 10:02:23 PM EDT
Smoke?
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