DNA Testing Could Exonerate Executed Man

As early as today, the nation may know if the state of Virginia put an innocent man to death in the electric chair 13 years ago.

Since Roger Coleman's execution for the 1981 rape and murder of Wanda McCoy, there has been intense debate about the quality of the evidence against him.

Today a Toronto laboratory is completing DNA tests at the request of Gov. Mark Warner, who is trying to resolve the matter once and for all.

"There'll be three results," Warner said last week. "Either confirm the guilt. It may demonstrate and there's a high probability that it will remain inconclusive. Or it may to some degree exonerate him. "

The governor's decision comes as public support for capital punishment has fallen in the last decade after a number of death row inmates have been exonerated.

Maintaining Innocence

Coleman went to the electric chair maintaining he did not kill his sister-in-law.

"I didn't commit the murder," Coleman said in a jailhouse interview. "I didn't commit the rape. I was not at fault ... I'm innocent. What else is there for me to say?"

Prosecutors and McCoy's family members say Coleman is guilty and should have been executed. The evidence, they say, is overwhelming.

His blood type was consistent with that found on the victim, and Coleman had been convicted earlier of trying to rape another woman in the same area.

Jim McCloskey of Centurion Ministries has worked for more than a decade trying to prove otherwise.

"I have no doubt," said McCloskey. "I believe 100 percent Roger Coleman is innocent."

If Coleman is innocent, there could be a sea change in the debate about capital punishment.

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