Yesterday the Memphis Criminal Court rejected Sedley Alley’s appeal for the release of DNA evidence which can prove, once and for all, whether or not he is guilty of the 1985 murder of Suzanne Marie Collins. But Judge Higgs went even further than rejecting the argument. The judge refused to even hear the testimony of two expert witnesses flown in from out of state by the defense.
Gary Harmor, an expert on DNA testing from California, was prepared to testify about the specific items in the state’s possession, what sort of DNA could be extracted and tested from them, and what such DNA would prove. Seems pretty relevant to a decision as to whether or not DNA evidence should be released, right? Apparently not.
The defense also had a private investigator who has been looking into other possible culprits as well as misleading and withheld evidence. Collins had a boyfriend that she was leaving who matched the initial description of her kidnapper, but the police did no investigation of him. Such testimony could certainly help point to the problems in the conviction and explain why the clear cut answer provided by DNA testing was needed, don’t you think? Apparently Judge Higgs disagreed.
There is currently no execution date set for Sedley Alley, but we don’t know how long that will last. If such a date is set, the state of Tennessee may well execute an innocent man. But regardless of what happens over the next few days, it should be clear to everyone at this point that the capital appeals process is not about justice. Is is justice to allow a man to be executed without even testing all available evidence? Is is justice to refuse to hear from experts who have been studying the case?
But then that presupposes that what the state is interested in is justice. When talking about the death penalty, I’ve seen no evidence that that is the case.
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