Ricky McGinn, the 2006 Version

The main problem with being opposed to capital punishment, as I am, is that there are a lot of organizations also opposed to capital punishment who seem to be run by Michael Dukakis liberals — the sort of people who will fight tooth and nail for convicted murderers but lack empathy and understanding of the horrors that crime victims go through that is what really drives support for capital punishment in my opinion.

One of the most idiotic things that comes out of this excessive focus on convicts is that anti-capital punishment groups tend to latch onto this person or that person whom they believe to have been wrongly executed or about to be executed, only for evidence to emerge that confirms the guilt of the individual. Moreover, the individuals such groups tend to latch onto are the sort of career criminals who are obviously guilty that it raises a serious question about just how gullible/rational some in the anti-capital punishment movement are.

Back in 2000, it was Ricky McGinn who was the star of the show. McGinn claimed he had not raped and murdered his 12-year-old niece step-daughter as a Texas jury had found, and opponents of capital punishment claimed DNA tests of pubic hairs and semen would prove this. Then Gov. George W. Bush granted a temporary 30 day reprieve for McGinn so such testing could be conducted. Rather than exonerate McGinn, of course, the testing showed that the killer was either McGinn or a very close maternal relative. McGinn was executed shortly afterward.

More recently, many anti-death penalty groups hopped on the Roger Coleman bandwagon. Coleman’s case is especially egregious. He was convicted of the 1981 rape and murder of his 19-year-old sister-in-law, and executed in 1992.

Coleman was an immediate suspect in the murder because there was no forceable entry at the murder scene, Coleman had left his job at a nearby mine at the end of his shift shortly before the murder giving him time to carry out the killing, and the fact that Coleman had a previous conviction for the attempted rape of a teacher. At trial, evidence against him included pubic hairs found at the scene that were consistent with Coleman’s and DNA tests that established he was part of the 2 percent of men in the country who could have contributed the semen found at the scene.

To put it bluntly, there was an overwhelming amount of evidence that Coleman was the killer, and yet numerous anti-death penalty groups and activists got on the “Coleman was innocent” bandwagon. Many bought Coleman’s claim that he simply did not have time to go from his job to the victim’s house and commit the murder. For example, according to the New York Times,

In 1988, James C. McCloskey, a divinity school graduate and founder of Centurion Ministries Inc., a group based in Princeton, N.J., that advocates for inmates it considers innocent, took up Mr. Coleman’s case and spent four years reinvestigating it.

Mr. McCloskey concluded that Mr. Coleman did not have the time or motivation to commit the murder, raising questions about the jailhouse confession and the forensic evidence. He asserted that Mr. Coleman had been wearing clothing covered with coal dust but that no dust was found at the scene, and he offered evidence pointing to an alternative suspect.

As in McGinn’s case, the DNA test confirmed the state’s verdict — Coleman was guilty as hell.

The upshot is that, as I’ve predicted before, DNA testing is going to ultimately reinforce support for the death penalty rather than lead to some new widespread anti-death penalty movement. Capital punishment supporters will point to these results as well as the extensive DNA testing that occurs in cases today to argue that whatever problems there may have been with determining guilt in the past, that DNA evidence makes many verdicts as close to incontrovertible as any system is ever going to get.

Sources:

Warner Orders DNA Testing In Case of Man Executed in ’92. Maria Glod and Michael Shear, Washington Post, January 6, 2006.

DNA Ties Man Executed in ’92 to the Murder He Denied. James Dao, New York Times, January 13, 2006.

Post Revisions:

5 thoughts on “Ricky McGinn, the 2006 Version”

  1. Just to let you get your facts straight on Ricky McGinn, the 12 yr old girl was his step-daughter and not his niece as you have wrote in your comments. Also, there was much more to the DNA findings than what you have stated. I am neither pro or con about death penalties and I am not saying he was innocent, but before you publish things, maybe you should have your facts straight.

  2. Thank you for the correction. Clearly the niece vs. step-daughter changed the entire complexion of the story and I have corrected that.

    “Also, there was much more to the DNA findings than what you have stated.”

    Okay, I’ll bite … what? It was widely reported that semen and public hair was found on his step-daughter that was retested using DNA analysis and found to be a close match to McGinn.

    McGinn’s own response to the positive match was to make the absurd claim that someone else must have planted it there (I’d love to hear the story of how they obtained the necessary samples in the first place!)

    But as absurd as all that it is, there is a non-zero chance that McGinn was innocent and it was wrong for the state of Texas to execute him.

  3. The fact that there are still people out there that are fighting for mcginn’s supposed innocence is beyond over the line in my opinion. There was more than once piece of DNA that connected this man to the rape and murder of Stephanie Flanery. Have people lost thier mind’s?? Are people really going with the “thats my story and I am sticking to it” defense in this case? The fact of the matter is, that all the people that are claiming that he was “framed” have no scientific or factual evidence of any kind to back up the claims that they are making, except for a video that supposedly showed a mysterious handprint that no one else but the mcginn family could see, a “reddish haired” man in a van that only the mcginn family saw and well the fact that they just cant believe he would ever do that. Give me a break. I cannot believe that these people are actually claiming that an entire town was involved in a major conspiracy to frame this man. Really? You people sound more than paranoid. In my opinion the people with these claims are perhaps the ones who were involved in a conspiracy to get a very guilty man to appear innocent even though he was proven guilty twice. Do any of you people even remember that there was someone else involved here?? Her name was STEPHANIE FLANERY. While these people sit by and and scream how unfair it is that this man was found guilty by a jury of his peers, how he was treated so unfairly, they seem to forget that STEPHANIE didnt get a trial before she was sentenced to die by his hands. Planted evidence? Really? How? Where is your proof? You have none. How about honoring the memory of an innocent little girl that never got a shot and having some respect for her mother and what she has been through? Or does mcginn’s false innocence outweigh the true innocence of Stephanie Flanery?

  4. Well said Gina! Oh
    Brian, it really does make you look like you don’t know what you’re talking about when you can’t get even the victim’s info right. I’m just saying.

  5. @Irene Weimer well of course…out of all of my discussion about Ricky McGinn and Roger Coleman, their collective innocence or guilt turns on whether or not Stephanie Flanarie was McGinn’s neice or stepdaughter…everything else from the DNA testing to how groups centered around ending unjust death penalty laws should approach specific cases is irrelevant and I probably should have left it out.

    Thanks.

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