The Late Claude Howard Jones’ Innocence Hangs on a Single Strand of Hair

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by Laura Smith
Sept. 11, 2007
A 1-inch piece of hair is proving to be a Texas-size bone of contention.
The hair: Authorities are not sure whose head it came from. The bone: Some criminal justice groups want the hair for DNA testing, and a district attorney doesn’t want to give it up.
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Enter Elizabeth Coker, San Jacinto County district judge. She’s issued a temporary restraining order barring county officials from destroying the hair.
Why all the fuss? It could be the definitive answer to who killed Allen Hilzendager in a small county liquor store in 1989. According to The Texas Observer, Claude Howard Jones was convicted of the crime primarily from the testimony of a state expert who had examined the hair under a microscope and concluded it most resembled Jones’. No DNA test was done. Jones was executed in 2000.
The Death Penalty Information Center reports that Jones is one of 403 people executed in Texas since 1976. Not only does Texas lead the nation in executions, the Innocence Project reports the state leads in the number of people exonerated through DNA testing with 29.
A Texas judge granted the Innocence Project’s request to retain the evidence while appeals are pending. No hearing has been scheduled regarding DNA testing.