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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Indiana Death Row Inmate Given Reprieve for DNA Testing

Aired July 28, 2003 - 19:26   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Moving on now, Darnell Williams, a name we talked about last week, tonight got 60 more days to live.
He had been set for execution Friday for robbing and killing an elderly couple. Now just a couple of hours ago, Indiana's governor granted a stay of execution. Now Williams has 60 days more.

The clock is ticking and CNN's Jeff Flock joins us to tell us how it all happened and whether new DNA evidence might actually get him life in prison -- Jeff.

JEFF FLOCK, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's a good question, Anderson. We'll try to answer it.

You know, George Bush, the governor of Texas had done it. Jeb Bush, the governor of Florida had done it. Today, Frank O'Bannon for the first time in his two-term administration as governor of Indiana did it. That is issue a reprieve to a Death Row inmate.

I want to show you the scene that ensued just after it. It was the family of Darnell Williams. This man who, as you point, out convicted in a 1986 double murder. He got 60 days, as you report, so that DNA testing can be done on blood evidence that resulted -- partly resulted in his conviction in that '86 murder.

Listen to that his mom had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I'm happy. I'm very happy. I'm very, very happy. I'm a happy mother. That my son going to get -- he going to get a chance.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLOCK: But Anderson, it is just a chance. It is a chance to prove that the blood found on his clothing does not match that of the victim's in this 1986 murder. You know, there wasn't DNA testing back then. They used the tests -- the best tests they had. The prosecutor said it tied him to the crime scene. But now that prosecutor not so sure.

Jurors have come forward and said that if it wasn't for that blood evidence, they never would have sentenced him to Death Row.

Also testifying at a parole board hearing today, in addition to prosecutors and jurors, members of the family of the dead couple from that 1986 murder. Perspectives now from all three.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS VANES, FORMER PROSECUTOR: If anyone were to ask me now whether I think Mr. Williams deserves anything less than the rest of his life in prison, my answer is no.

But the question immediately facing to you is whether he deserves something more than that, whether he deserves to be executed. And my answer is not right now.

JOHN GNAJEK, FORMER JUROR: The only physical evidence was the blood evidence on his shorts.

FLOCK: So if you hadn't had that evidence you wouldn't have given him the death penalty?

GNAJEK: There is no way we could have given him the death penalty if he wasn't a trigger man. And that was the only evidence that actually put him in the room.

FELICIA MOORE, VICTIM'S RELATIVE: I was 14 years old. And we went and we cleaned their house and there was blood everywhere. And we cleaned their house. So I don't want you to forget the heinous crime that has happened to them.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

FLOCK: And in terms of it then, we want to show you the victims again in that 1986 double murder, a couple from Gary, Indiana, their names John and Henrietta Reese.

This was a family that took in foster children. Ironically the other man convicted along with Williams was a foster child of this couple. He also received the death penalty in the murder, but ironically this man, because he was ruled mentally retarded is now off Death Row, while Mr. Williams remains on Death Row despite the 60-day reprieve -- Anderson.

COOPER: All right. Jeff Flock, thanks very much. And I know we talked to Barry Scheck last week of the Innocence Project. He says that he can do DNA testing in about five or six days so may get an answer on this case very quickly.

Jeff, thanks for the report.

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