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DNA Test Confirms Guilt Of Executed Virginia Killer Roger Coleman

A last minute move by outgoing Virginia Governor Mark Warner to give incoming Governor Tim Kaine an avenue to abandon his pledge to enforce Virginia's death penalty laws, which we'd previously covered, has come up empty.

RICHMOND, Va. Jan 12, 2006 -- New DNA tests confirmed the guilt of a man who went to his death in Virginia's electric chair in 1992 proclaiming his innocence, a spokeswoman for the governor said Thursday.

The case had been closely watched by both sides in the death penalty debate because no executed convict in the United States has ever been exonerated by scientific testing.

The tests, ordered by the governor last month, prove Roger Keith Coleman was guilty of the 1981 rape and murder of his sister-in-law, Gov. Mark R. Warner's spokeswoman Ellen Qualls said.

A finding of innocence would have been explosive news and could have had a powerful effect on the public's attitude toward capital punishment. Death penalty opponents have been warning for years that the risk of a grave and irreversible mistake by the criminal justice system is too great to allow capital punishment.

In the matter of Roger Coleman's rape and murder of Wanda McCoy justice was done in 1988 when he was convicted, 1992 when he was executed, and today when the those who want all death penalty convictions overturned lost their "innocent" poster boy.

A heavy price has been exacted on McCoy's family for the past 25 years by Coleman supporters like Jim McCloskey. It's telling that his Centurion Ministries page contains this introduction to his press release:

Today, January 12, 2006, we are sad to let you know that Governor Mark Warner has announced that the DNA testing in the Roger Keith Coleman case has confirmed Roger's guilt.
A guilty man was proven guilty, the system worked, justice was served, etc. yet they're "sad."

Previously: Will Kaine Be Raising The Death Penalty Issue?


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Comments (15)

Love ya, but I think McClos... (Below threshold)
Paul:

Love ya, but I think McCloskey's full message is much better than he comes across in the brief quote. He's "sad" I think because he know knows that the man on whom he spent so much effort and who he so firmly believed was innocent was in fact guilty - not sad because the system worked.

Yeah, it makes you wonder w... (Below threshold)
Half Canadian:

Yeah, it makes you wonder when the anti-death penalty crowd hopes for the execution of an innocent man.
Whereas, ol' blood-thirsty me just wants actual murderers put to death.
Sure, I'd like to expand this to child molesters, but I'll take what I can get.

That was sort of my point -... (Below threshold)

That was sort of my point - his press release says the right things, but not the message to the faithful.

I agree with Paul. Reading... (Below threshold)
JP:

I agree with Paul. Reading the entire statement gives the impression that the guy is sad because he was carrying water for a rapist/murderer for years and years.

Or perhaps he is sad becaus... (Below threshold)
JD:

Or perhaps he is sad because 12 jurors, millions of dollars, and multiple appellate reviews came to the correct conclusion, with which he (as our intellectual and moral better) didn't agree.

Memo to Centurion Ministries: Choose your thugs to hug with better care next time. Your message just got diluted about 75% because of all the water you were carrying on this (thankfully dead) scumbag.

Check this out: <a href="ht... (Below threshold)
JohnAnnArbor:

Check this out: a Virginia anti-death-penalty site still has a quote from the murderer proudly prominent on their home page (scroll down).

The statement by McCloskey ... (Below threshold)
jeff:

The statement by McCloskey in the AP report made me think this guy is probably more of an adult than a great many of his contemporaries. He said that he was wrong and it was a bitter pill to swallow, adding that he felt betrayed by Coleman. I don't know this guy, at least not anything beyond what I've read today, but give him credit for admitting that he was wrong, that's just not something you hear from either side much these days when it comes to these debates.

That shredding sound you he... (Below threshold)
Tim:

That shredding sound you hear is the sound of the front pages of all the major papers being tossed out so this story can be buried on the back page of section C.

AP Report: ".....Desp... (Below threshold)
Mike D:

AP Report: ".....Despite the lack of an explosive result in the Coleman case, the power of DNA is unquestioned and is sure to come into play again." MSM is so biased because if the result found Coleman innocent, it would be front page news in the US and worldwide.


Centurian Ministries has be... (Below threshold)

Centurian Ministries has been around for decades and has a very narrow focus. It only takes on a smattering of cases if there's sufficient evidence involving the ACTUAL innocence of a person who's been sentenced to death or life in prison after being convicted of rape and / or murder.

Aside from meager resources, one of the reasons Centurian Ministries is so selective is that they don't want to tarnish their reputation by representing someone who's FACTUALLY guilty. To do so might discredit, simply by association, any other cases they have.

"Or perhaps he is sad becau... (Below threshold)
erg:

"Or perhaps he is sad because 12 jurors, millions of dollars, and multiple appellate reviews came to the correct conclusion, with which he (as our intellectual and moral better) didn't agree."

Well, judging by his statement he's certainly your intellectual and moral better (although admittedly that takes no real effort).

Unless of course, you believe that the judicial system is absolutely perfect and that all jury results are absolutely perfect (including tobacco verdicts and the OJ verdict). If so, I would suggest getting examined by a psychiatrist.

FWIW, there were some reasonable defense points in the original case -- one being that Coleman had an alibi for a large part of the night and the claim was that he couldnt get to the murder cabin in time. Another point was that he was represented by someone with no experience at all, and his appeal was filed one day late, leading to its rejection. I think the case was originally not that strong. Its not surprising that some people believed that Coleman may have been innocent.

On the other hand, a first set of DNA tests was done a few years later when Coleman was on death row and that provided strong evidence of his guilt (I believe they said he was among only 2% of the population that could have been responsible). Even then, there were some complicating factors, IIRC.

I am glad the final DNA test was done though since it should finally close the case. We know there are other cases of innocent people being sentenced, so its not inconceivable that this could have happened in this case.

As far as McCloskey, he seems to be a fine upstanding man, who genuinely believed Coleman to be innocent. Its a shame his organization and he Death Penalty lawyers wasted so much time on Coleman.

I don't get the big deal. ... (Below threshold)
Ross:

I don't get the big deal. Innocent people get executed often. The fact Coleman wasn't one of them, doens't mean the system works well.

Until the system is run perfectly and run by saints, the death should not exist.

Ross, if "innocent people g... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Ross, if "innocent people get executed often," then why is it no one can cite a single solid example?

J.

'Ross, if "innocent people ... (Below threshold)
erg:

'Ross, if "innocent people get executed often," then why is it no one can cite a single solid example?'

Because its not easy to prove innocence. Unless the real murderer confesses, its hard to see what would constitute exculpatory evidence. DNA is useless in most death penalty cases because there is no sample.

We know that people tried for rape were freed after 25 years recently when DNA vindicated them. Why is it so hard to believe that there may be a few cases of the death penalty being misapplied as well ? The justice system is not perfect, and remember that in death penalty cases (as in Coleman's case), the most crucial lawyer at the trial stage is typically a probono novice. Later on, law firms take up the case for appellate cases, but the original lawyer is very often not experienced for such serious cases. Appellate review can typically only check for law problems, not evidence problems.

Honesty should lead people on both sides to agree on the following:

1) The vast majority of people put to death, probably 99.5%, are guilty.
2) But there are probably well be .5% who are not guilty.

England had a case in which the death penalty was applied to someone who turned out to be innocent. That incident led to the suspension of the death penalty in the UK.

erg,I have sat on ... (Below threshold)

erg,

I have sat on a jury trying a man for murder, and believe me, I took it very seriously. I believe that people would normally take it much more seriously than they would any other crime, especially if they know that finding an individual guilty could result in his execution.

You say that an individual in the UK was executed, then proven innocent. Please give details so we can research the case. If you can't, then it's just hearsay.

Additionally, and I may be wrong on this, but under their system of law aren't they guilty until proven innocent? A different legal system may indeed result in the innocent being executed, but I can still recall the defense attorney in the murder case I was involved with saying, "My client sits before you today an innocent man. He doesn't have to prove it, it's a matter of law. The DA has to prove him gulity." In fact, the DA tried him for 1st degree murder, we found him guilty of manslaughter.

TD




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