- The Washington Times - Monday, March 11, 2002

RICHMOND Virginia, the first state to execute a criminal convicted on DNA evidence, is preparing for what is believed to be the first execution in the nation based on a "cold-hit" DNA test.
James Earl Patterson is to be put to death by injection Thursday for a 1987 rape and murder in Prince George County.
He was fingered when the state compared DNA samples from the crime with DNA samples in its database of 175,000 inmates. A cold hit matched the DNA of Patterson, who was serving a prison sentence for another rape.
Patterson, 35, has been behind bars nearly 14 years and would have been released in 2004 without the new evidence.
An Associated Press survey of the 37 other states with the death penalty turned up no previous cases of a cold-hit execution. The Death Penalty Information Center in Washington said it was unaware of such a case.
Virginia is far ahead of other states when it comes to using DNA to solve crimes. It became the first state to execute a man convicted through DNA evidence when Timothy W. Spencer went to the electric chair in 1993 for a series of stranglings in Richmond.
Its DNA felon database, established in 1989, makes up about 20 percent of the national database, more than any other state, said Paul Ferrara, director of the state Division of Forensic Science.
After the 1999 DNA cold hit, Patterson confessed and pleaded guilty to raping, sodomizing and stabbing Joyce S. Aldridge in her Prince George County home on Oct. 11, 1987.
He asked to be sentenced to death and dropped all of his appeals.
"The penalty fit the crime," he said in a telephone interview from Death Row at Sussex State Prison. "I was responsible and I want to pay the ultimate price."
"I watched the DNA technology grow," he said. "If it ever came back to haunt me, I would plead out and seek the death penalty. The option was life in prison and dying in prison.
"As far as DNA goes, I applaud it," he said.
Virginia gives condemned inmates a choice of dying by injection or in the electric chair.
"I've heard too many horror stories about the chair," Patterson said. "I don't feel like being deep-fried or boiled."
Patterson killed Mrs. Aldridge when he was 20, a time he said he was heavily into drugs and alcohol. But he said he blames no one but himself because his parents tried to point him in the right direction.
"I don't even blame the drugs," he said. "The trail that I was on was self-inflicted."
The seemingly relaxed Patterson said he had no fear of being executed. "I've found love in Christ," he said. "I'm ready. On March 14th I will be getting relief."
He said he also hopes his death will bring some relief to the Aldridge family.
"My heartfelt prayers go out to them every day," he said. "They are so much a victim in all of this."
Under Virginia law, Patterson's case automatically was appealed to the state Supreme Court, which rejected it.
Patterson's attorney, John Boatwright, said he didn't expect his client to change his mind and pursue last-minute appeals.
"He is at peace with himself," Mr. Boatwright said.
Since 1982, when Virginia resumed executions after a 20-year hiatus, the state carried out 83 executions, second only to Texas.

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