A Texas judge blocked the destruction of DNA evidence that could prove the innocence of a man who was executed in 2000. A joint motion filed by a coalition of concerned groups sought DNA testing on a hair taken from the crime scene in the case of Claude Jones. In addition, the groups asked the court to impose a restraining order to prevent Texas from destroying the evidence while the court considers their request for DNA testing. Judge Elizabeth Coker granted the restraining order request and set a hearing for October 3rd on whether DNA testing will take place. The suit was filed by the Texas Observer, the national Innocence Project, the Innocence Project of Texas, and the Texas Innocence Network.

The hair, which was found on the counter in a liquor store where a man was shot and killed, was central in Jones’ trial and post-conviction appeals. An expert for the state testified at the trial that the hair was consistent with Jones’. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state’s highest criminal court, narrowly upheld Jones’ conviction. In the 3-2 ruling, the majority specifically cited the hair evidence as the necessary “corroboration” to uphold the conviction.

“The judge today recognized that this case raises very serious issues about the integrity of the criminal justice system. We’re grateful that the state will not be able to destroy this evidence before DNA testing can be conducted,” said Nina Morrison, Staff Attorney at the Innocence Project. “We are hopeful that the judge will also see that it’s in everyone’s interests to conduct DNA testing that could resolve serious, lingering questions about this case. DNA testing could show that Claude Jones was guilty, or it could show that the state had no basis for executing him. The public has a right to know whether Claude Jones committed the crime for which he was executed, and today’s ruling moves us one important step closer to learning the truth.”
(“Texas Judge Blocks State From Destroying Evidence that May Show Whether Man Was Wrongfully Executed, The Innocence Project - Press Release, September 10, 2007). Read the Press Release. See Innocence.