Thursday, November 11, 2010

Bush's Final Execution: Oops, I Did It Again

Claude Jones was executed on December 7, 2000.  He was the last of the 152 men and women who were put to death under then-Governor George Bush.  It has previously been reported that Bush gave short shrift to clemency decisions and that the clemency memos prepared for him by his legal counsel, Alberto Gonzalez, were incomplete and inaccurate.  The Texas Observer reports today that new DNA tests undermine the evidence that convicted Claude Jones, who professed his innocence until the end. Jones was convicted based on a strand of hair recovered from the crime scene that prosecutors claimed belonged to him.  "DNA tests completed this week at the request of the Observer and the New York-based Innocence Project show the hair didn’t belong to Jones after all."  The Observer asserts that "the results of DNA testing not only undermine the evidence that convicted Jones, but raise the possibility that Texas executed an innocent man." The DNA technology was not available at the time of Jones' trial but could have been used prior to his execution ten years later.  The day before Jones was executed he asked for a stay so that the hair could be submitted for DNA testing, but Bush denied the stay request.  Remarkably, the clemency memo that was sent to Bush and recommended denial did not even mention Jones’ request for  testing.  Jones is the second man executed in Texas based on demonstrably flawed forensic evidence.  As an article in The New Yorker detailed, Cameron Todd Willingham, was executed in 2004 for starting a house fire that killed his three children but fire scientists now say the fire was accidental and the arson evidence used to convict him was erroneous.  Claude Jones' son issued the following statement after learning of the test results:  "I hope these results will serve as a wakeup call to everyone that serious problems exist in the criminal justice system that must be fixed if our society is to continue using the death penalty.”


Maria said...

Makes me ill to think that Bush didn't read the memos, but even if he had the memos lacked crucial information. Also sick to think of a father losing his three children in a house fire and then being wrongly convicted and executed.

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