Monday, April 26, 2010

In Search of 54: Odell Barnes

Other than the distinct possibility he was executed for a crime he did not commit, Odell Barnes was not a sympathetic figure. He was a crack addict and admitted to stealing to support his habit. He racked up nine felony convictions by the time he was 21 years old. In one case he broke into a home, hit the female resident over the head with an iron, threatened her with a gun, threatened to kill the daughter, sexually assaulted her, robbed her, and stole her car.

The murder for which he was executed ...
... occurred 3 weeks after he had been paroled after serving only 19 months of a 10 year sentence for robbery. Previously, he had been paroled after serving only 3 months of an 8 year sentence for robbery. These early paroles came during a period Texas had too many inmates and were forced to release inmates to comply with federal court orders. The early releases help explain how Barnes managed to rack up so many felony convictions at a young age.

On the surface, the State had a really good case against Barnes. He was seen near the victim's house an hour or so before the murder. His fingerprint was on a lamp used to kill the woman. Her blood was on his coveralls. His semen was inside her. Two witnesses saw him with the murder weapon. Case closed.

However ...

The witness had originally claimed it wasn't Barnes he saw. Barnes had been having a not-so-secret affair with the victim and the semen and fingerprint were thus easily explainable. The blood on his coveralls contained a high level of citric acid, a preservative, and a suggestion that the blood was planted. The two people who testified seeing him with the gun actually had the gun. They were likely two of the three-person team who robbed, beat, and killed the victim.

There's lots of information available about the Barnes case. It took me a while to work through it all and condense it into a single page Actual Innocence Scorecard. I am finally done with that effort and present his scorecard herein. I scored him at 69. If in the minuscule chance I have done everything absolutely correctly, that means there is somewhat more than two chances out of three that Odell Barnes was factually innocent.

I note that Odell Barnes is one of the people Hank Skinner identified as being possibly innocent but certainly executed.

I'll take this opportunity to summarize those executees I have scored in my search for the 54.

Johnny Frank Garrett, 91
David Wayne Spence, 90
Robert Nelson Drew, 84
Odell Barnes, 69
Leonel Torres Herrera, 11
Melvin Wayne White, 0

It's a long way from 54, but it's still quite early in my search. I forewarned everyone it would take a while.

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