Thursday, November 24, 2005

Holy Breaking News Virginians...

Praise the Lord and Hallelujah. The Roanoke Times reported yesterday that prayers from abolitionists across the land may soon be answered.

It involves DNA in a California laboratory that could exonerate a man who professed his innocence to his grave.

Just about everyone in the abolition movement thought the DNA in the case of Roger Coleman had the best chance of being tested after Tim Kaine was duly sworn in as governor, especially since the current governor has been publicly mum on the subject.

A story in the Roanoke paper now reports Gov. Mark Mark Warner may order the DNA to be tested during his term after all.

Edward Blake, the forensic scientist who has the Coleman DNA in a freezer, initially wanted testing to be done in California; there is but a dribble available and he feared the evidence might be destroyed, as apparently has happened in Virginia "in other death penalty cases" such as the evidence of Robin Lovitt, scheduled to be executed in Virginia in eight short days.

"[I]n the interest of seeing the issue resolved." Blake ultimately agreed to allow for DNA to be tested in Virginia; thus moving "the process...forward."

Jack Payden-Travers of Virginians for Alternatives to the Death Penalty and a dedicated abolitionist is quoted as saying,

"With Warner being mentioned as a possible presidential candidate, ordering the tests in Coleman's case could play well to voters in states where the death penalty does not carry as much support as in Virginia." The testing of Coleman's DNA has been politically problematic, especially in Buchanan County where the murder took place. After all, an innocent man may have been executed as a result of court proceeding in their jurisdiction.

Centurion Ministries, "a New Jersey organization that investigated Coleman's case and believes he was innocent," asked Buchanan Circuit Court and Virginia's Highest Court to allow new DNA testing. At the time of Coleman's execution, testing was in its infancy.

Four newspapers, including the Washington Post joined the suit. But the Courts rejected their motion.

After a legal tussle with then attorney general Jerry Kilgore (and recent losing Republican governor candidate) about who should safeguard the evidence, Kilgore lost his motion to force the laboratory to release the DNA to his office. Centurion then swiftly asked Warner to order a new test.

For Payden-Travers, any action by Warner in the past could have created a backlash from opposing stakeholders (the law and order crowd, prosecuting attorneys and sympathetic judges) towards Centurion, the four news organizations, death penalty activists, and the govenor for odering the testing.

Not surprisingly, Warner avoided any gnashing of teeth and overhyped media during his tenure as governor by doing nothing; but with his term now ending, public backlash is not as big a concern. He can now address the issue once and for all.

The newspaper notes that even if Warner orders the analysis, results will unavailable until after he leaves office. Thus, elected-Gov. Tim Kaine will have to be the point man in guiding the ensuing dialogue. Kaine personally opposes the death penalty but promised voters he would uphold the laws.

Payden-Travers feels it's a win-win situation for Warner.

He comes off smelling like a rose because he can say: "I have let the truth be known...But he doesn't have to deal with the political fallout of the innocence ofsomeone who has been executed."
For the last four years, Payden-Travers doggedly tracked Warner during his numerous radio townhall meetings. And in their most recent radio exchange on the topic, The Roanoke Times reports Payden-Travers said that "Warner all but promised that he would order the testing." The activist also said Warner told him, "It's just a matter of working out the procedures."

So for all those years of frustration, here's a toast to the movement, even though 997 prisoners have been executed, and by next week, the death tally will reach the 1,000 milestone with Lovitt.

Let us give thanks on this day of Thanksgiving for recent elections and events, which have been auspicious for opponents of the ultimate punishment.

On this special day of hope, a Bible verse popularalized during the 1960s seems appropriate. Peace and joy!

Ecclesiastes 3:1-8.
To everything there is a season
And a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal;
A time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh;
A time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to seek, and a time to lose;
A time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and time to hate;
A time for war, and a time for peace

I see you're for DNA testing to further your cause. Just curious where you stand on stem cell research?
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