NEW VOICES: Prosecutor, Juror Call for DNA Testing in Case of Man They Sent to Death Row
Doubts about the appropriateness of a death sentence have prompted former prosecutor Thomas Vanes to call for new DNA testing in the case of Darnell Williams, a man he sent to death row as a Lake County, Indiana state's attorney. Williams is scheduled to be executed on Friday, August 1. Vanes and John Gnajek, a member of the jury that sent Williams to death row, have filed a suit in federal court asking for a stay of Williams' execution until new DNA testing is completed on blood evidence that played a crucial role in the case. Jurors in the case have stated that if it had not been for the blood found on Williams' clothing, which suggested that he was present during the shootings, they would not have sent him to death row. Testing would determine whether the blood was from the victims or another source. "People were trying to determine whether he was the actual shooter," said Gnajek. "The blood on his shorts seemed to indicate that. Without it, I couldn't have voted for the death penalty." Williams could use the new DNA evidence to seek executive clemency from Governor Frank O'Bannon. The state attorney general has stated that he does not oppose the new tests if the governor requests them for the clemency review. (New York Times, July 24, 2003) See New Voices and Innocence.