Thursday, November 11, 2010

Claude Howard Jones

I just finished listening to John Grisham's new book The Confession. It tells the story of a young African American high school football player unjustly accused and convicted of the murder of his white female classmate in a small Texas town. The governor in the book sounds a lot like W. It was hard to read because of the subject matter and the incompetence of the judicial system but if you are interested in reading about how things really work in Texas or if you are on the fence about capital punishment I would suggest reading this book or listening to it on audio like I did.

I found this true story in the Houston Chronicle today. I'm sure this isn't the only innocent person put to death by Bush. Just one more person to add to the list of innocent people killed by him here and in Iraq.

Hair casts doubt on executed man's guilt

by Allan Turner

In 1989, the robbery-murder case against Claude Howard Jones relied largely on a strand of hair recovered from the Point Blank crime scene. Microscopic tests identified the hair as Jones', and a San Jacinto County jury sent the career criminal to his execution.
On Thursday, however, a DNA test on the same hair revealed that it likely belonged to the robbery victim, liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager.
Jones, 60, was executed for the November 1989 crime on Dec. 7, 2000 — protesting his innocence to the last.
One day before his execution, Jones' lawyer, James A. DeLee of Port Arthur, petitioned then-Gov. George Bush for a 30-day reprieve so that the hair could be subjected to DNA testing.
Bush, who earlier had endorsed DNA testing in life-and-death cases, denied the reprieve. He apparently made his decision on the recommendation of his staff lawyer, Claudia Nadig, who, in reporting the bid for the reprieve, made no mention of the request for DNA testing.
Nadig, now a government lawyer in the nation's capital, could not be reached for comment.
The new test, performed by Mitotyping Technologies, a private Pennsylvania laboratory, was requested by the Texas Observer, an Austin-based political journal, and the New York-based Innocence Project.
The testing found that hair DNA was consistent with that of the victim and his maternal relatives; it was not consistent with Jones' or that of his accomplice, Danny Dixon.
"We can't say for certain that he's innocent, because the DNA tests don't implicate another shooter," said the Observer's Dave Mann. "But it certainly raises troubling questions about the case. The strand of hair was the piece of evidence that tied him to this crime and put him in the liquor store doing the shooting."
Other than the hair evidence, prosecutors relied on witnesses who testified they saw a man resembling Jones enter the liquor store.
Jones' second alleged accomplice, Timothy Jordan, who testified Jones had confessed the crime to him, later admitted that he had lied to jurors. Jordan was sentenced to prison for aggravated perjury after he told differing stories to grand and trial jurors.
In addition to DNA testing, the hair also was subjected to additional microscopic examination.
Nicholas Petraco, an associate professor of chemistry and forensic science at City University of New York, reported that the hair in evidence was not suitable for "meaningful microscopic comparison" because it merely was a fragment.
"A meaningful forensic hair comparison requires that suitable questioned and unknown hair specimens be compared from root end to tip end while being observed side-by-side on a transmitted light comparison microscope," he wrote.
Comments from the San Jacinto County District Attorney's office were not immediately available.

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