Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Independent Weekly Covers the Supreme Court decision

Friday, May 12, 2006

News and Observer's Board Editorial

said this today about the North Carolina Supreme Court decision:
Wednesday's ruling was a sensible and appropriate interpretation of the legislature's intent. A DNA test of a semen sample recovered from the teenage victim was ruled inconclusive 15 years ago. DNA testing has improved significantly in recent years, however. Both common sense and justice argue that if more advanced and accurate DNA testing is available, it must be used before the state of North Carolina executes someone.
Read the rest of the editorial posted here on the ncmoratorium website

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

In the Supreme Court of North Carolina . . .

Late this morning, Justice Timmons-Goodson signed an Order for the Court that reads in pertinent part as follows:

Defendant's motion for stay of execution is allowed. Defendant's petition for writ of certiorari is allowed for the limited purpose of reversing the trial court's denial of DNA testing and remanding this case to Gates County Superior Court for entry of an order requiring that biological evidence in the possession of the State be DNA tested pursuant to N.C.G.S. 15A-269.

With this order, the Gates County court's denial of a DNA test was vacated. Importantly, this Order indicates that the Supreme Court understands that the law means what it says -- that when DNA exists and is relevant to a case, it is the public policy of the State of North Carolina that it be tested.

(AP Photo/Jerry Wayne Conner's defense lawyers)

NC Supreme Court Stays Jerry Conner's Execution

More news later

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Dear Editor:

Some recent letters-to-the-editor found in NC newspapers:

This one from the Asheville Citizen Times

North Carolina Needs a Death Penalty Moratorium and DNA Testing

by Ian McGregor
published May 9, 2006 12:15 am

The state refuses to test DNA evidence that could determine with certainty the guilt or innocence of Jerry Conner. Conner is scheduled for a May 12 execution at Central Prison even though doubt remains about his culpability. The courts are supposedly accountable to us, the good people of North Carolina. How many of us are willing to put some abstract rule of the court or the cost of running the tests above our need for the truth before the state kills a person in our name? Not me. Not most of us. In August of 1990, someone murdered Mihn Rogers and raped and murdered Linda Rogers. Jerry Conner was convicted of those horrible crimes. Sixteen years later and days from his execution, there is still doubt about his guilt. The system is too flawed to be trusted with life and death. Most of us don’t even trust the courts to fairly adjudicate our traffic tickets. Yet, for some reason, we trust the same system to be unerring in applying death as punishment.

That is plain foolish. We need a DNA test in this case and legislature should pass a moratorium on executions.

Ian McGregor


And this one publised in the News and Observer on May 5, 2006

Give him his DNA test
In the case of Jerry Conner, 40, scheduled for execution May 12, why not retest his DNA? (news story, May 3). In the last 16 years there have been significant changes in the test. In 1990, it took weeks to get the results back; now, it takes a day. Why deny this man the new, more accurate, test? Is the state so unsure of its justice system?

Instead of doing what's right, the state is relying, since the old test was inconclusive, on the confession of a borderline mentally retarded man, when there are cases of normally intelligent, but naive or young, people tricked into confessing crimes they didn't commit.

The Innocence Project reports that false confessions have been present in more than one in four DNA exonerations across the country. If North Carolina is no different, we all must doubt our justice system, and the state hiding the possible innocence of a condemned man just makes things worse.

M. B. Hardy


Friday, May 05, 2006

Amnesty International Calls for Action in Jerry Conner's Case

Amnesty issued this ACTION ALERT yesterday.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Why Jerry Conner Did Not Seek Clemency Today

Ten days from his scheduled execution, Jerry Wayne Conner is in the same position he was in almost two months ago when he first asked the State to consent to DNA testing. Attorneys for Mr. Conner did not participate in today’s clemency hearing before Governor Easley, because they were unable to adequately represent Mr. Conner before the Governor given the questions still existing about his guilt. Mr. Conner has presented both the courts and the governor with the means to answer these questions—a new DNA test that would conclusively answer these questions. Until answers are available, participation in the clemency process would not be constructive.

A pdf. is available here. To keep reading, click here.

Exonerating evidence discovered . . . but the defendant has already been executed!

Evidence is being revealed that Texas executed a man using scientifically invalid evidence.
Can we risk the same here in North Carolina?

Thursday, April 27, 2006

The President's $1 Billion Effort to Support DNA testing

In 2001, the President proposed a $1 Billion effort to use DNA testing to solve cold cases and increase confidence in the convictions of those serving time or on death row for crimes where DNA evidence is available. Congress has funded more than $200 million in support of the initiative already. The plan allows not only for better use of DNA testing at trials, but also in post-conviction cases like Mr. Conner's. The President's efforts acknowledge that

DNA testing makes it possible to obtain conclusive results in cases in which previous testing had been inconclusive.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Jerry Conner hits the N&O's Op-Ed Page

In today's Raleigh News and Observer, Duke Public Policy Professor Don Taylor asks for the public's help in getting a new DNA test. Dr. Taylor writes:

There is still time for a DNA test prior to the May 12 execution. We the people need to demand that our elected officials do not carry out this execution without first having all the information that is available to them and in their control.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

Conner asks the NC Supreme Court to Grant DNA Test

After being denied a DNA test by the Superior Court following the District Attorney's objection to a re-test, the case is now in the hands of the NC Supreme Court. The position opposing a DNA test has now been adopted by Attorney General Roy Cooper's office. Perhaps Mr. Cooper was hesitant to interfere when the litigation was being pursued locally, but why continue to be so obstinate now that it's in front of the Supreme Court and it's his office filing the papers?

Jerry Conner's execution is scheduled for three weeks from today. There's still time to get results from a DNA test without delaying the execution.

Use the Take Action menu now. Both the Governor and the Attorney General have the power to allow for testing and prevent injury to the public's confidence in our criminal justice system.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Clarifying the News

The A.P. story that is being picked up EVERYWHERE is reporting that Mr. Conner's attorneys will be asking the Governor for DNA testing on May 2, at the clemency hearing. A not so close reading of the letter actually reveals that the letter itself is asking for the Governor's assistance to secure DNA testing, and in fact says clearly that will "his attorneys will not petition for clemency, nor will we appear on his behalf at a clemency hearing until a DNA test is conducted and the results are returned."

The way the press has picked this up implies that the legal team is willing to wait until May 2nd. This misconception plays right into the idea that this is only an attempt to delay the executation. A central part of the effort to secure testing has always been, "do it now and nothing gets delayed."

46 Duke students can be tested in a week. How long could it take to do just one?

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Conner to Governor: Do a DNA Test Before Clemency Hearing UPDATED

News Update--Read the News and Observer Coverage picked up by the Myrtle Beach Sun News

April 5, 2006

Governor Michael F. Easley
State Capitol
116 W. Jones St.
20301 Mail Service Center
Raleigh, N.C. 27699-0301

Re: Jerry Conner

Dear Governor Easley:

We are writing on behalf of Mr. Conner in response to the scheduling letter issued by your office for clemency proceedings. Mr. Conner is scheduled to be executed by the State of North Carolina on May 12th and a clemency hearing is scheduled for May 2nd. Mr. Conner requests your assistance in facilitating a DNA test of physical evidence in the possession of the State.

We believe that the prosecution has unreasonably opposed this testing and a Superior Court Judge has unfairly denied Mr. Conner access to the evidence for purposes of conducting the test. What is the harm in allowing a DNA test? We believe that this test will show, one way or another, whether Jerry Conner is guilty of these crimes. Such a test, if permitted now, will not delay Mr. Conner’s execution if the results are unfavorable. If the results are favorable, we have no doubt that you and every fair-minded citizen of North Carolina will want to halt the execution.

Without a DNA test, we are unable to adequately present Mr. Conner’s case for clemency. Mr. Conner will not petition for clemency, nor will we appear on his behalf at a clemency hearing until a DNA test is conducted and the results are returned. We trust that as Governor you share our interest in ensuring access to all available information in order to make a fair and informed decision about clemency.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

Very truly yours,

Ken Rose and Mark Kleinschmidt

Attorneys for Jerry Conner

Return to main page and TAKE ACTION!

Monday, April 03, 2006

Hear an Interview with Jerry Conner's Attorney

Brian Russell over at audioactivism.org interviewed Jerry's Attorney. Download the podcast here .

You'll notice a new feature on the sidebar of this site -- a list of other blogs that are covering Jerry's story. Some mainstream media has covered the case, including:

  1. New York's WBAI Pacifica 99.5 FMs Wake Up Call (scroll down to Wednesday, March 29, 2006 7:00 am and click on play, to hear about Jerry fast forward to 46:05),
  2. WRAL TV (See post below),
  3. Asheville's WPBM 103.5,
  4. and Chapel Hill's WCHL

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."