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Last Updated: Friday, 13 January 2006, 00:35 GMT
Tests reveal executed man's guilt
By James Coomarasamy
BBC News, Washington

Roger Keith Coleman
Coleman's case was taken up by opponents of capital punishment
DNA tests have confirmed the guilt of a man who was executed in the US in 1992 whilst proclaiming his innocence.

Virginia state's outgoing governor, Mark Warner, had ordered the tests on Roger Coleman, who was put to death for raping and murdering his sister-in-law.

Anti-death penalty advocates had hoped this would be the first case of DNA testing exonerating an executed man.

The test results are a blow to those who supported Coleman and to the anti-death penalty movement in general.

A forensic laboratory in Toronto concluded there was virtually no doubt that the DNA recovered from the body of the victim, Wanda McCoy, belonged to Coleman.

Hot topic

The tests had been ordered by Governor Warner, considered by many a possible candidate for the 2008 presidential race.

It was the first time that a US governor had requested genetic testing in the case of an executed prisoner.

Although a supporter of the death penalty, Governor Warner has used his last few weeks in office to grant clemency to an inmate on death row for the first time.

In mid-term election year, the death penalty remains an important political topic in the US.

Opinion polls suggest that while a majority of Americans are still in favour of capital punishment, the margin is far smaller than it has been in the past.

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