Friday, March 31, 2006

Inmate Scheduled for Execution May 12 Requests DNA Test to Demonstrate Innocence

Jerry Conner maintains his innocence of the murder of Minh Rogers and the rape and murder of Linda Rogers. A DNA test will likely show that Jerry Conner did not commit these crimes.

Jerry Conner is scheduled to be executed on May 12. He professes his innocence of the murders, armed robbery and the rape for which he was convicted and sentenced to die. The State’s theory was that only one person committed all these crimes. DNA results, if favorable, will conclusively answer the question of whether Mr. Conner is innocent of the rape of Linda Rogers, and consequently innocent of the murders and armed robbery.

Prior DNA testing conducted by the FBI was inconclusive. DNA testing has improved to such an extent that we can now identify the contributor of the semen. According to Shawn Weiss, Associate Director of Forensic Identity for Lab Corp of America, new STR testing is more reliable and “significantly more probative” than RFLP testing used in 1991 by the FBI. Mr. Weiss states that greater accuracy and probative value is assured because, unlike RFLP testing, STR testing can be conducted on “significantly smaller quantities of biological evidence,” is “more sensitive,” and evaluates substances “other than spermatozoa such as epithelial cells and white blood cells.”

The other evidence in the case is unreliable. Although Mr. Conner “confessed” his involvement in these crimes at the time of his arrest, his statements to the police were taken under the threat of the death penalty and were marred by internal inconsistencies. Although many find it difficult to imagine how someone could admit to a crime they did not commit, the Innocence Project reports that false confessions have been present in more than 1 in 4 DNA exonerations that have occurred across the country.

The State of North Carolina opposes DNA testing. The SBI agent in charge of handling, preparing and transmitting the 1991 DNA to the FBI was Brenda Bissette, an agent who was forced to resign from the SBI lab for mishandling DNA evidence in up to 50 cases. Although the SBI has agreed to conduct re-testing in “any case that Bissette handled,” the State is opposing Mr. Conner’s request. Jerry Conner has filed a motion over the objection of the prosecutors asking for a test that could demonstrate beyond any doubt, before he is executed, that he is innocent. Without this test, the State of North Carolina risks the execution of an innocent man. If instead of opposing and obstructing this testing the State were to consent to testing, the results of the test will be completed well ahead of Mr. Conner’s May 12 execution date.

For more information, contact attorneys for Jerry Conner:

Ken Rose or Mark Kleinschmidt, Center for Death Penalty Litigation, (919) 956-9545

Monday, March 27, 2006

DNA Testing Denied

Today the Judge signed an Order denying Jerry Conner's request for DNA Testing. The Order that was signed was the one submitted by the District Attorney with his motion opposing the testing. The Judge's decision was made without giving Mr. Conner's attorneys even the opportunity to argue the merits of his request in open Court.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Even a Wake Co. Assistant DA agrees that

"no matter what time it is, either pre- or post-conviction, it should be used if it will reveal the ultimate truth in a case," he said."

Read or watch the WRAL coverage here

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

So why won't they do re-testing for Jerry?

The SBI Agent who handled the DNA evidence in Jerry Conner's case was forced to retire last year.

Here's some of the press coverage. The SBI told the Winston-Salem Journal they would "redo DNA testing in any case that Bissette handled, if requested by the prosecuting or defense attorney."