Here's the latest horror story about Texas' justice system, where the same tale never ceases to shock: A convicted murderer executed in 2000, after being denied a crucial last-minute DNA test by Gov. George W. Bush, may have been innocent.
The Texas Observer is out with a great story about Claude Jones, whom the state executed over a 1989 incident in which he supposedly murdered a liquor store owner. The only workable piece of forensic evidence that the prosecution brought against Jones was a strand of hair found at the crime scene which they "claimed belonged" to Jones. Jones asked for a last-minute stay of execution to get the hair DNA-tested, which George W. Bush rejected. Which was a pretty unfortunate decision, considering:
But 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 day before his death in December 2000, Jones asked for a stay of execution so the strand of hair could be submitted for DNA testing. He was denied by then-Gov. George W. Bush.
A decade later, 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 tests-conducted by Mitotyping Technologies, a private lab in State College, Pa., and first reported by the Observer on Thursday-show the hair belonged to the victim of the shooting, Allen Hilzendager, the 44-year-old owner of the liquor store.
Well, you know, Bush was pretty busy in early December 2000, lawyering his way to the United States presidency. Cut him some slack. On second thought, don't cut him any slack, because good lord.
This revelation, of course, won't change much of anything in Texas. The state's voters will never stop loving their proud "rampant and arbitrary application of death" pastime. A year or so ago, for example, Gov. Rick Perry was involved in a similar incident about how he denied a last-minute stay for someone later shown, most likely, to be innocent. This came up after Perry fired members of a state science board investigating the incident, who were about to release a pretty damning report about him. So how did his then-primary opponent, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, use this as a campaign attack? Not by faulting Perry for executing an innocent human being. Too obvious! Instead, her criticism was that Perry's sloppiness gave the damn liberals an excuse to criticize the death penalty, as though it might be flawed.
The only thing Rick Perry's actions have accomplished is giving liberals an argument to discredit the death penalty. Kay Bailey Hutchison is a steadfast supporter of the death penalty, voted to reinstate it when she served in the Texas House and believes we should never do anything to create a cloud of controversy over it with actions that look like a cover-up.
So: Her well-polled political response to a story about Rick Perry's execution of an innocent person made a point of strongly reinforcing her undying support for executing people. What a world! What a world.
Anyway, if we were betting bloggers, we'd bet that George W. Bush won't be held accountable for something like this in any way, and may even see a spike in his approval ratings.
[Claude Jones image via AP]