Wheels of Justice Grind (Too) Slowly


Just as he leaves office, Virginia's Governor Mark Warner finally got around to ordering that the DNA of a man executed for murder be retested by modern methods to see whether or not he did it. The executed man, Roger Coleman, maintained his innocence up until his death. Reason argued that this testing should have been done long ago.

The Washington Post reports:

Virginia Gov. Mark R. Warner has ordered DNA testing that could prove the guilt or innocence of a man executed in 1992, marking the first time a governor has asked for genetic testing of someone put to death.

The analysis, which began last month, comes in the case of Roger K. Coleman, a convicted killer whose proclamations of innocence—including on the night of his execution—raised concern nationwide over whether the wrong man died in the electric chair.

Warner's decision marks a dramatic turnaround in Virginia, where officials and judges have routinely refused to reexamine evidence in criminal cases after a defendant's conviction and have been steadfast in their denials of post-execution requests. Results of the Coleman tests, which are being conducted by scientists in a Toronto laboratory, could be announced before Warner (D) leaves office next week.

Justice needs to be done whatever the fallout for the national debate over the death penalty. Shame on those who stood in the way of this step for so long.