DNA Retest Denied

Judge Denies DNA Retest in Coleman Case

Jun 02, 2001

A Buchanan County circuit court judge has rejected requests by a New Jersey charity, the Richmond Times-Dispatch and several other newspapers to retest DNA evidence in the case of Roger Keith Coleman, executed in 1992 for a rape and capital murder in Grundy. "The court finds that to order re-testing of the Coleman DNA at this stage would have no bearing on the fairness of the death penalty as it is now administered or on the public confidence of the criminal justice system," wrote Judge Keary R. Williams in a 10-page ruling. Coleman's execution drew international protests from capital punishment opponents who contend he was innocent of the rape and murder of Wanda McCoy. Many still contend he was innocent, though an earlier DNA test strongly suggested his guilt and he failed an eleventh-hour polygraph test. Williams said that "further testing would would provide no benefit in this case where the defendant was convicted, given the opportunity [to] prove his innocence following conviction in every manner possible at the time, pursued every post-trial remedy available to him, and most importantly, where the sentence was carried out nine years ago." He said the newspapers lacked the legal standing to make the request. In addition to The Times-Dispatch, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post and The Virginian-Pilot were seeking the test. In rejecting the requests, the judge asked the Virginia attorney general's office to write an order that the petition of the newspapers and Centurion Ministries is denied and to return the biological evidence from a laboratory in California to Virginia where the state is free to destroy it.


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