Reasonable Doubts:

Is the U.S. Executing Innocence People?

October 26, 2000

A Preliminary Report of the Grassroots Investigation Project

 Pursuing justice, peace, and equality
Quixote Center
P.O Box 5206, Hyattsville, MD 20722

Phone: 301-699-0042                            Fax: 301-864-2182
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Footnotes to Introduction

[4] The rape kit in the case of Joseph Odell – executed in 1997 for a brutal rape and murder – was destroyed by the state on March 30 of this year.  The Catholic Diocese of Richmond and members of Odell’s family had sought DNA testing after the state had refused Odell’s request for the testing just prior to his execution.  The state successfully blocked the test, convincing the state Supreme Court that it was not in the state’s interest to prove that an innocent man had been executed.  Currently, The Boston Globe and Centurion Ministries are seeking DNA testing of vaginal swab samples taken from Wanda McCoy, whose rape and murder resulted in Roger Coleman’s execution in Virginia in 1992.  Coleman’s case is profiled in this report.  Again the state is opposing new tests, arguing the public does not have a “right to know” the truth.  In a hopeful sign, The Boston Globe, The Atlanta Constitution, CBS, and the Macon Telegraph have won the first court order in the country for post-execution DNA testing in the Georgia case of Ellis Wayne Felker.  (See “Two Seek Post-Trial DNA Tests,” April 24, 2000, A-1 and “State objects to more testing; DNA work sought on executed man,” October 7, 2000, both in The Richmond Times Dispatch.)  Clearly, the battle to re-examine cases where potentially innocent defendants were executed is only just beginning.