Test Results Do Not Prove Innocence of Texas Man Executed
A DNA test on a single hair has stirred some controversy regarding Claude Jones who was condemned to die for the 1989 killing of liquor store owner Allen Hilzendager, who was shot three times outside the town of Point Blank, Texas.
The hair had been the only piece of physical evidence linking Jones to the crime scene. But the recently completed DNA analysis found it did not belong to Jones and instead may have come from the murder victim, reported the Associated Press.
According to Time Magazine, that single 1-inch strand of hair was the key to Jones' original conviction. A truck carrying Jones and Danny Dixon did pull up in front of Hilzendager's liquor store that night. One man got out, went inside and gunned Hilzendager down, according to two eyewitnesses across the highway (neither could see the murderer's face). Both Jones and Dixon were certainly capable of the crime — both were on parole after serving time for murder. But there was little other firm evidence of which one had done it. Dixon accused Jones, and Jones accused Dixon.
The fact that the hair was actually Hilzendager's doesn't mean that Jones was necessarily innocent, but it does mean that the jury convicted him, in part, on possibly inaccurate evidence. DNA testing may have address the issue with the hair sample. As the execution drew near, Jones petitioned Governor George W. Bush for a stay of execution and the right to DNA testing. Apparently, the briefing papers given to Bush by his staff did not include the request for the DNA testing, and Bush denied a stay of execution, according to Time.
Jones' had a brutal past. While serving a 21-year prison sentence in Kansas, he poured a flammable liquid on his cellmate and set him on fire, killing him. Authorities also said his getaway driver, Danny Dixon, was previously convicted of shooting a girl between the eyes and burying her in a cemetery, reported Associated Press.
This DNA test is not an exoneration of Jones. This is not a case where the DNA test indicated that Jones is factually innocent. Could DNA testing prior to his execution been enough to stay his execution or even grant him a new trial? We can speculate that he might have received some relief from the court.
What we do know is that two convicted killers pulled up in front of a liquor store and the store owner was brutally murdered. A witness said said Jones confessed to the killing.
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