Fightback: Murder at the Gallop

by Sylvia Weinstein

Just think, there is now a fool-proof way of finding out the guilt or innocence of a person accused of rape and murder: Using the DNA test. But at this time only two states, Illinois and New York give inmates the right to use the latest DNA testing-even though the procedure has freed 72 inmates from prison, eight of them from death row.

You’d think that it would be the police who would insist on using DNA testing, in order not to charge an innocent person.

I have watched those television shows about forensic scientists who are called in to examine a dead body and discover the cause and time of death.

No stone is left unturned (according to the television show) to uncover facts about the dead body. Of course, I am always amazed at the evidence uncovered and the dedication of the law enforcement authorities to leave no stone unturned to find the truth. But not in real life!

(Left) DNA evidence from rape kits, like this one used in Texas, led to release of 26% of main suspects whose cases were analyzed by the FBI.

(From Newsweek, May 29, 2000)




On June 1, in Texas, Ricky McGinn was scheduled to be executed by lethal injection for the murder of his 12-year-old stepdaughter.

McGinn, like many prisoners, received poor legal counsel. It took until this May before the trial court in Brown County, Texas, had received a request that a pubic hair found inside the victim and a possible semen stain be tested.

Now, at the last possible second, Gov. George W. Bush has granted McGinn a 30-day reprieve to allow testing of the DNA evidence.

Bush, who has presided over 131 executions-more than any U.S. governor in history-is unabashedly looking for campaign support from some of the millions of Americans who are horrified by the recent discoveries of innocent people on death row.

And yet, in the Roy Criner case in Texas, and several others where DNA tests of semen have ruled out guilt for inmates convicted of rape, prosecutors still refuse to free them. The prosecutors claim that while the victim had another man’s semen inside her, she was still raped by the man they convicted.

How can they convict someone without evidence? It is known as the “unindicted co-ejaculator” theory. Sort of like the “theory” of God- never mind the proof, if you “feel” there’s a God, that’s enough.

In January, Gov. George Ryan of Illinois imposed a moratorium on executions in that state after 13 inmates-one of whom came within two days of being executed-were proven innocent. So far, 87 death-row inmates have been released from prison nationally since 1973.

Executions have taken a huge leap since 1976. Texas is the leader-with 218 put to death since 1982. Nineteen Texans are scheduled to die between now and Election Day.

(See story on Gary Graham on page 20.)

How many of those men are innocent?. Just look at the Los Angeles Police Department and you can see how it is that innocent people are thrown into prison on trumped-up charges.

Currently, there are 9845 cases that are being reviewed because of frame-ups by the LAPD. After all the law suits against the LAPD have been settled, it could cost the city of Los Angeles $300 million.

This country recently celebrated Memorial Day-a holiday in honor of all those who have died for imperialism. We might also think of all of those who have been executed on death row but who have been innocent. Once they have been put to death, there is no bringing them back. How many more will die because of the injustice of our court system?

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