Archive for Thursday, July 13, 2000

DNA tests don’t clear death row inmate

July 13, 2000

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— New DNA tests have failed to clear a Texas inmate given a reprieve by Gov. George W. Bush last month just minutes before he was to be executed on rape and murder convictions, USA Today reported.

The way Bush has dealt with the death penalty in two terms as Texas governor has been a campaign issue as he awaits formal nomination next month as the Republican candidate for president.

The paper reported in Wednesday's editions that sources close to the case told it that recent tests by the FBI point to Ricky McGinn or a maternal relative as the source of a pubic hair found inside the body of Stephanie Flanary, 12, the convicted man's stepdaughter.

The paper noted that no member of McGinn's family has been linked to the case.

A spokeswoman for Brown County Dist. Atty. Lee Haney said Wednesday that his office had received no test results and refused to comment, citing a gag order imposed by State District Judge Stephen Ellis, who ordered the additional DNA tests.

One of McGinn's attorneys, Maurie Levin, with the nonprofit Texas Defender Service that represents death row inmates, said she also could not comment because of the gag order.

"If it is true, then it would simply confirm what we knew all along, that Ricky McGinn is a cold-blooded murderer and rapist," said Robert Rice, an attorney for Steve Ray Flanary, Stephanie's father.

Bush spokesman Mike Jones said it was the understanding of the governor's office that there were several tests yet to be done and they wouldn't be completed until the middle of August. "I guess in a few weeks we'll see how it all turns out."

McGinn was facing execution the night of June 1 after being convicted in 1995 of raping and killing the girl and exhausting all appeals. But Bush granted a reprieve less than 30 minutes before the scheduled execution to allow time for DNA testing.

McGinn, 43, and his attorneys wanted additional DNA testing, which they hoped would exonerate him. Although DNA evidence was used by prosecutors to help convict McGinn of the May 1993 rape and ax slaying of the girl, his lawyers contended more sophisticated testing now available would help his case.

They argued that new DNA tests proving the hair was not McGinn's would show he did not rape the girl. Without rape as an aggravating circumstance of the slaying, McGinn would not be subject to the death penalty on the murder conviction.

USA Today said the new McGinn tests were completed last month and filed with Ellis.

It said a second set of tests being done by other labs could rule out McGinn as the source of semen left at the crime scene, but quoted sources close to the case as saying that appeared unlikely.

If the judge decides the tests do not exonerate McGinn, he could set a new execution date. The judge is schedule to rule sometime after Aug. 15.

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