Monday, February 28, 2011

With a man's life at stake, DNA test is appropriate

The following editorial was published on February 28, 2011 by the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

By The Plain Dealer Editorial Board

Why would Portage County Prosecutor Victor Vigluicci fight a motion for the DNA testing of a cigarette butt that could help exonerate a man on death row?

Vigluicci says the Ohio Innocence Project motion is a waste of time because an appellate court and the state Supreme Court already denied prior motions from convicted murderer Tyrone Noling.
But the prior motions didn't address the need to DNA test the cigarette butt -- which blood tests after the crime determined had not been smoked by Noling or his co-defendent.

The question now is, who was the smoker?

Attention to that detail seems fully merited in this long-running case, in which the courts repeatedly have declined to consider new evidence that might exonerate Noling in the killing of an elderly Portage County couple.

Noling is no angel. He's a robber with a rap sheet. But the chief witnesses against him have recanted, and another man has stepped forward to claim that his late foster brother admitted to the crime. That kind of uncertainty requires Ohio to slow down and make sure of its case.

Carrie Wood, an attorney with the Innocence Project, argues that the new motion is driven by new evidence that raises doubt about Noling's guilt in the 1990 murders of Bearnhardt and Cora Hartig.

Wood wants to test the cigarette for DNA to see whether it matches that of convicted murderer Daniel Wilson, whose DNA is stored in a criminal database. Wilson was executed in 2009 for burning a woman alive.

Police initially considered Wilson a suspect in the Hartigs' deaths.

Noling has maintained his innocence for more than two decades. Any evidence that casts doubt on his guilt must be considered. Justice demands it.

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