- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 7, 2002

RICHMOND (AP) A scientist holding frozen DNA evidence in the case of an executed Virginia inmate said he will fight any effort by the state to get the evidence back.
Edward T. Blake of Forensic Science Associates in Richmond, Calif., said he will go to court in California to block any Virginia court order to turn over evidence he has held for 12 years. Mr. Blake fears Virginia authorities will destroy it.
Mr. Blake said the public has a right to know whether Roger Keith Coleman raped and murdered Wanda Faye McCoy in Buchanan County in 1981. Coleman, who always said he was not guilty, was executed in 1992.
"I'm exercising a principle to preserve something for the public good, and I haven't held on to this stuff for the past dozen years to have it thrown away," Mr. Blake told the Richmond Times-Dispatch for a story published yesterday.
"There's a proper legal process if the state of Virginia wants to seize the sample from me and it will get litigated in California," Mr. Blake said.
In 1990, Virginia authorities had Mr. Blake examine a vaginal swab taken from the victim. The genetic tests showed Coleman fell within only 2 percent of the Caucasian population that could have committed the crime.
That test, coupled with other blood tests, found Coleman was within 0.2 percent of the population that could have been the culprit.
Coleman also failed a lie-detector test shortly before he was executed.
Coleman supporters and capital-punishment opponents contend that the earlier DNA test was misinterpreted and the results were based on flawed assumptions. They say advances in DNA testing now might enable a conclusive determination of whether Coleman was guilty.
Paul Ferrara, director of the state division of forensic science, said he could test the evidence only if ordered to do so by a court or the governor.
Centurion Ministries, a New Jersey group that works to free innocent inmates, and the Boston Globe, Richmond Times-Dispatch, the Virginian-Pilot of Norfolk and The Washington Post asked the Buchanan County Circuit Court to permit new tests.
Circuit Judge Keary R. Williams turned down the requests and the Virginia Supreme Court last week upheld his decision. Judge Williams had agreed to stay his order that Mr. Blake's lab return the material to Virginia, pending appeal to the state's Supreme Court.
Margaret E. Stone, attorney for the newspapers, said she suspects the Attorney General's Office will now ask Judge Williams to return the material to state police.
But Tim Murtaugh, a spokesman for Attorney General Jerry W. Kilgore, said no decision has been made. The case is back in Judge Williams' hands, Mr. Murtagh said.
Paul F. Enzinna, who represents Centurion Ministries, said he may soon ask Gov. Mark R. Warner to order the test. In the meantime, he is considering whether to ask the judge to allow Mr. Blake to continue holding the evidence in California, where it can be kept frozen and protected.

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