Could President George W. Bush Have Saved a Man From Execution in 2000?

Innocence Project says man executed in 2000 may have been innocent.

ByABC News
November 12, 2010, 1:29 PM

Nov. 12, 2010 — -- An omission in a memo given to then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush may have led to the 2000 execution of an innocent man, according to an investigation by the Innocence Project, which helps exonerate wrongfully convicted inmates through DNA evidence.

The organization said today that Bush staffers never told the governor of death row inmate Claude Jones' request to run a DNA test on a strand of hair.

The hair, which has now been proven through DNA testing not to belong to Jones, was the only physical evidence linking Jones to the 1989 murder of Allen Hilzendager, a liquor store employee in San Jacinto County, Texas.

Jones, who was 60 at the time of his death, was executed for his supposed role in the crime in December 2000.

"I have no doubt that if President Bush had known about the request to do a DNA test of the hair he would have issued a 30-day stay in this case and Jones would not have been executed," said Barry Scheck, the co-founder and co-director of the Innocence Project, in a written statement.

A spokesman for Bush did not respond to messages left by for comment.

Jones was accused along with two co-defendants, Timothy Jordan and Kerry Dixon, of shooting Hilzendager. The only two eyewitnesses to the crime -- a father and his 14-year-old daughter -- were unable to identify any of the accused assailants, according to the Innocence Project.

The piece of hair, which became the lynchpin of the case, was found by investigators on the counter near Hilzendager's body. A chemist who had initially concluded that the sample was too small for testing later testified at Jones' trial that the "microscopic characteristics of the hair on the counter" did in fact "match" Jones' DNA.