Posted by Cheryl Cotterill, Guest Blogger
When Claude Jones was convicted of capital murder in 1990, the technology did not exist to test the only physical evidence provided by the prosecution as proof of his guilt--a single strand of hair. According to the prosecution, in 1989 Jones robbed a liquor store and shot Allen Hilzendager with a gun belonging to Timothy Jordan while Jones' other accomplice, Kerry Dixon, waited in the car. At trial, Jordan testified against Jones but in 2004 recanted his testimony stating that everything he had reported at trial actually came from Dixon and not Jones. Jordan also stated that the police had told him what to say in exchange for a reduced sentence in the case. Because accomplice testimony alone cannot be the sole basis for a conviction in Texas, the hair evidence was crucial to the prosecution's case. As a result of the hair evidence Jones was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death. Jordan plea bargained and received a 10-year sentence for a lesser offense. Jones always maintained his innocence.
Ten years later and while Jones was still alive, technology had been developed to determine whether or not the hair used to convict Jones actually belonged to him. But rather than find out the truth and possibly save an innocent man's life, Texas instead opted to go ahead with the execution. Jones had requested a stay of execution so that the hair evidence could be submitted for DNA testing but then Governor George W. Bush denied his request as did two Texas courts. On December 7, 2000, Jones was strapped to a gurney and administered a lethal injection of drugs.
Now after three years of battling the courts, the Observer and three innocence groups were finally able to obtain the hair evidence and submit it for mitochondrial DNA testing. On November 11, 2010, the results came back showing that the hair did not belong to Jones after all. The hair, it turns out, belonged to the murder victim, Allen Hilzendager. Barry Scheck, co-founder of the Innocence Project, said in a statement: "Unreliable forensic science and a completely inadequate post-conviction review process cost Claude Jones his life."
Posted in Blog, Sentencing
Comments are now closed for this item.
Comment by fdssdg, Jan 27th, 2011 10:14am
your wrong, bush is right
Comment by Kristin Kiser, Nov 19th, 2010 7:00am
I'm speechless. I know these things happen, but why? Why do we allow it? Why was the hair strand not tested to make sure it was him? WE CAN'T JUST PUT PEOPLE ON DEATH ROW AND CARRY OUT THE EXECUTION IF WE ONLY THINK THEY DID IT!!!!! GOOD JOB BUSH! I HOPE THIS HAUNTS YOU FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE AT THE LEAST. THIS MAN WAS WRONGFULLY EXECUTED BECAUSE OF YOU!!!!!!!