RICHMOND, VA. Gov. Mark R. Warner on Thursday ordered DNA evidence retested to determine whether a man convicted of rape and murder was innocent when he was executed in 1992.
If the testing shows Roger Keith Coleman did not rape and kill his sister-in-law in 1981, it would be the first time in the United States a person has been exonerated by scientific testing after his execution, according to death penalty opponents.
Warner said he ordered the tests because of technological advances that could provide a level of forensic certainty not available in the 1980s.
"This is an extraordinarily unique circumstance, where technology has advanced significantly and can be applied in the case of someone who consistently maintained his innocence until execution," said Warner, a Democrat who leaves office Jan. 14.
"I believe we must always follow the available facts to a more complete picture of guilt or innocence," Warner said.
A former prosecutor in the case did not object to the tests and said he was confident they would confirm Coleman's guilt.
Coleman was convicted and sentenced to death in 1982 for the murder of 19-year-old Wanda McCoy, his wife's sister, who was found raped, stabbed and nearly beheaded in her home in the coal mining town of Grundy.