We are following a very interesting case in Texas. Claude "Butch" Jones was the last person executed in Texas in 2000, which set a national record. He had been convicted of the robbery and murder of a liquor store owner. Jones had always maintained his innocence. A hair fragment, which had been recovered from the counter of the liquor store, was the only physical evidence connecting Jones to the murder. The testimony at his trial was that a microscopic examination of the hair fragment "matched" Jones' hair. The state's expert could not exclude others whose hair had the same characteristics as Jones'. The Innocence Project and The Texas Observer, an Austin Texas news magazine, had filed a petition to have mitochondrial DNA testing on the hair fragment. This type of DNA testing was not available at the time of Jones' trial. The prosecutor who assisted in the prosecution of Jones had always opposed and blocked this new form of DNA testing of the hair fragment. The prosecutor died this month and a new prosecutor is handling the case. A Texas judge has agreed with the petitioners and has ordered that the DNA testing proceed. The result of the DNA testing could prove that Jones was guilty if it matches him, exonerate him of the murder if it matches his co-defendant, or could cast considerable doubt of his guilt if it doesn't match any of the defendants.
It is important to note that Jones had a bad history. He was an alcoholic and drug user for much of his adult life. He spent most of his adult life in prison and had been previously convicted of murder in which he poured gasoline on an inmate and set him on fire.
The prosecutor has not indicated whether he will be appealing the ruling allowing for the DNA testing.
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