"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. "I believe we must always follow the available facts to a more complete picture of guilt or innocence."
On May 20, 1992, on the night that Coleman was executed, he made the statement: "An innocent man is going to be murdered tonight," the 33-year-old said moments before he was electrocuted. "When my innocence is proven, I hope America will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized countries have."
Because the well-spoken Coleman pleaded his case to the news media his execution drew international attention. He convinced many of his innocence. After his execution, several newspapers and Centurion Ministries sought a court order to have the DNA retested. The Virginia Supreme Court declined to order the testing in 2002. Centurion Ministries then asked Warner to intervene.
Warner, a Democrat who is considering a presidential bid in 2008, granted their request less than two weeks before he is scheduled to leave office.
Evidence Against Coleman
In 1990, DNA tests put Coleman within two percent of the population who could have produced the semen found at the crime scene. Additional blood typing put Coleman within a group consisting of 0.2 percent of the population.
Prosecutor Tom Scott, who worked on the case, told CNN he has no objection to the new DNA tests, because he is confident they will confirm Coleman's guilt.
At the time of his conviction, Coleman had been previously convicted of attempted rape and charged with exposing himself to a librarian two months before the murder of Wanda McCoy. Also, Coleman failed a polygraph test hours before his execution.
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