Alabama Governor Refuses to Hear How DNA Testing Could Impact Case Set for Execution
‘Rather than looking at the science, he is burying his head in the sand,’ says Innocence Project, noting that this is the second execution in two months where Riley has denied DNA testing
(MONTGOMERY, AL; September 19, 2007) – Today, Alabama Governor Bob Riley refused to discuss DNA testing in the case of Thomas Arthur with Innocence Project Co-Director Peter Neufeld and Staff Attorney Olga Akselrod. Less than two months ago, Darrell Grayson was executed in Alabama without DNA testing that could have conclusively proven his guilt or innocence. The Innocence Project worked with Riley and his senior advisers in the days leading up to Grayson’s execution, unsuccessfully pressing for DNA testing. Arthur is set to be executed next week.
The Innocence Project, which does not represent Arthur and does not have a position on his guilt or innocence, said DNA testing in the case could show whether the initial story from the victim’s wife was, in fact, accurate. (She initially claimed a stranger – someone other than Arthur – broke into their home, raped her and killed her husband. Police suspected she was lying, and she was charged and convicted in her murder. She then changed her story and testified against Arthur in order to be released from prison earlier.) Several pieces of evidence – the victim’s wife’s blood-stained clothing, a rape kit collected from her after the crime, and hairs in the victim’s wife’s car – could be subjected to DNA testing. The testing could show that her testimony against Arthur was false; hers was the only testimony linking him to the crime. For example, it’s possible that the testing could show that her original story was true and that she was raped, and the DNA profile from evidence in the rape could be entered in the federal DNA database and yield a hit to a man matching her initial description of the intruder at the couple’s home.
Following is a statement from Peter Neufeld, Innocence Project Co-Director, on today’s developments in the Arthur case:
“We do not have a position on whether Thomas Arthur is guilty or innocent. Our concern is that biological evidence may exist that could be subjected to DNA testing and prove whether or not he is guilty. Governor Riley this afternoon refused to even meet with us to get a clearer understanding of what DNA testing could show in this case and why testing should be conducted. Rather than looking at the science, he is burying his head in the sand.
“As we told the governor’s senior advisers today, 42 states in the country now allow post-conviction DNA testing. In 42 states, Darrell Grayson or Thomas Arthur would have been able to get DNA testing that could resolve their cases and maintain public confidence in the criminal justice system. Governor Riley, who has refused DNA testing before executions twice in the last two months, has made it clear that he isn’t concerned with getting to the truth in these cases.
“Nationwide, 15 people who served time on death row have been exonerated through DNA evidence. Sometimes within days of execution, DNA proved they were innocent. If any of those 15 people had been in Alabama, they would be dead today. This indifference to the power of DNA to determine the truth through hard science is unconscionable for a governor who holds the fate of so many in his hands."