DNA Shows Inmate May have Been Wrongly Executed

Attorneys say new DNA evidence proves a man put to death ten years ago should never have been executed. Claude Jones was convicted of murder based on a hair that was found at the crime scene. But new tests show that hair wasn't his. Bill Stamps has more.
Attorney Barry Scheck, known for his role in the O.J. Simpson case, is now head of a group called the Innocence Project.

Scheck says new DNA tests performed on a small strand of hair show it does not belong to Claude Jones — a man executed for killing a liquor store clerk in the small town of point Blank, Texas just north of Huntsville in 1989. He says the tests show the hair belongs to the victim.

"If that DNA test had been performed, we know there would have been plenty of doubt about guilt and this conviction would have been reversed and this execution wouldn’t have taken place. That’s the truth."

During the trial, a forensics expert testified that the hair belonged to Jones. It was the only physical evidence the prosecution had against Jones, but at the time DNA testing wasn't possible. However just before Jones was to be executed, his attorneys asked then Texas Governor George Bush for more time to perform more tests, but Scheck says they never told Bush what the tests were for.

"I can tell you, with great certainty that if President Bush had been told what the purpose of this DNA test was, he would have granted that stay. And we now know based on the results, disclosed yesterday, that if that test had been done, we would have discovered that the hair did not come from Claude Jones. The hair came from the victim in this case."
 
Former Texas Governor Mark White supports the death penalty, but believes changes need to be made.

"It should be a lesson to every governor sitting today across the country that there should be a complete reexamination of the procedures involved in making determinations from the executive branch as to what executive clemency might be granted, whether it should or should not be granted."

Claude Jones’ son Duane says his father maintained his innocence until his death. While none of the new evidence proves Jones was innocent, attorneys with the Innocence Project believe it would have been enough to prevent the execution and perhaps get a new trial. This is Duane Jones:

"It is absolutely unacceptable to have people spending decades of their life for something they didn’t do because of the inadequacies of the mechanisms of the system."

Duane Jones says his father never claimed to be a saint, but always denied being a murderer.