Last Friday, the Florida Supreme Court received the lab report from the state crime lab on the DNA evidence pertaining to the murder of Mary Hammond in 1983, and the conviction of David Eugene Johnston for that crime.
Johnston was set to be executed by the State of Florida on May 27, 2009 – but the Florida Supreme Court stayed the execution so DNA testing of the evidence could be performed. After all these years, the state still has not only safeguarded Johnston’s shorts, socks, and shoes but also fingernail clippings from the victim (which contain skin and blood evidence from a male).
The State Crime Lab report had no concrete result for the high court: instead, the formal recommendation was for more testing with better technology. Today, two labs are involved: one chosen by Johnston’s attorneys (in Ohio) and one by the prosecutors (in Virginia).
Curiously – and tellingly, prosecutors had opposed DNA testing in this case, arguing (unsuccessfully, of course) to the high court that there was more than enough evidence to confirm Johnston’s guilt without doing the testing. Two questions come to mind:
1. If it’s so clear that he’s that guilty, then why wouldn’t the prosecutor just go along with the defense motion stand and let Johnston’s request for testing just provide further support for the state’s case?
2. Why not automatically insure that DNA testing has been performed before any execution is performed in this country? Surely this isn’t too much to ask.