For over two decades, a hair stored in an evidence bag in Coldspring, Tx., was cataloged as belonging to Claude Jones, convicted of murder in 1990 and executed 10 years later. Yesterday, a court-ordered DNA test found that it actually belonged to the murder victim Allen Hilzendager. The result casts significant doubt on the validity of Jones’ conviction and his execution, says Time magazine. That single 1-in. (2.5 cm) strand of hair was the key to Jones’ conviction.
The hair expert at the Texas crime lab originally thought the small sample was “unsuitable for comparison” using the microscopy technology available at the time, but eventually changed his mind and decided to test it after all. Using that outdated technology – which essentially has two hairs examined side by side under a microscope – the expert then determined that the hair belonged to Jones and not a co-defendant. Barry Scheck of The Innocence Project hopes that George W. Bush, who was Texas governor at the time, “gets an opportunity to look at this” and acknowledges that an error was made. The new DNA results come during a rough patch for capital punishment in Texas. After 18 years in prison – 12 of those on death row – Anthony Graves was exonerated and walked free in October based on the opinion of a special independent prosecutor who found in favor of a 2006 reversal of his conviction.