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Georgia Stops Execution for DNA Testing

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Carlton Gary was scheduled to be executed on December 21, 2009. In an extraordinary setp, just 5 days before that date, the Georgia Supreme Court postponed the execution of Carlton Gary until DNA from the 30 year old crime can be tested. Mr. Gary was convicted of raping and strangling three elderly women in 1986, when DNA testing was not yet available. The evidence presented against him at trial included a fingerprint and the testimony of a woman who survived a similar attack, although she had initially said that it was too dark to see anything.

The biological material collected at the time did not contain Mr. Gary’s blood type, which prosecutors explained by saying that he was a non-secretor (i.e., someone whose blood type is not present in bodily secretions like saliva or semen). When Mr. Gary was tested and shown to be a secretor, the state’s expert testified that he must be a secretor in his salvia but not in his semen, a medical impossibiility.

For years the defense was told that the evidence had been destroyed. Fortunately, that was simply not true. Biological evidence from all cases for which Mr. Gary was convicted and from several similar transaction cases is still in the possession of the Columbus Police Department. Testing should be completed within a few months.

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