Nel's New Day

February 29, 2012

DNA Testing Could Stop Executions

Human life is the focus of conservatives, if you listen to them describe a fertilized egg as a “person” and rail against birth control. But what about an adult’s life?

Last year Troy Davis was executed in Georgia, despite the total lack of evidence to show him guilty. Tyrone Noling is sitting on Death Row in Ohio, despite the possibility that a DNA test of a cigarette might exonerate him. One month from today, Thomas Arthur will be executed in Alabama for a 30-year-old murder, despite another person confessing under oath to the crime and shaky evidence.

Both Noling and Arthur have always maintained their innocence, and both cases have no physical evidence linking the men to the crimes. And both convictions could be overturned if state officials would permit DNA testing, in Arthur’s case a test so sophisticated that the Alabama Department of Forensic Sciences cannot perform it. The state wouldn’t even be charged for this testing because Arthur’s attorneys are willing to do this. The testing could be accomplished by the execution date.

Prosecutors and judges prioritize “finality” in capital punishment cases at the expense of “accuracy” because they want no more delays.

Andrew Cohen, one of the nation’s leading legal analysts and commentators, wrote: “The case [Thomas Arthur] also raises questions about where we go from here on DNA testing. Should a state ever be able to block a new DNA test if it doesn’t have to pay for it? The questions from the past tell us how arbitrary and capricious capital cases can be. The questions about the future tell us how much of a fight is left ahead over capital punishment in America.”

I ask when conservatives will care about the lives of adults.


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