Odell Barnes, Jr.
Odell Barnes was convicted of killing Helen Bass, bludgeoning her to death with a rifle butt and a lamp before after raping her in her home.
During Barnes’ appeals process, two new attorneys were appointed to his case by a Federal court. European anti-death penalty activists contributed some $16,000 to his defense fund, and the new lawyers paid for forensic tests out of their own pocket.
The new defense team uncovered deficiencies in the forensic evidence, serious errors and oversights by the original defense team, and problems with the credibility of prosecution witnesses. (from Wikipedia)
The evidence was interesting in a few aspects.
“Barnes claimed at trial that he had never had sexual contact, consensual or forced, with Bass. DNA testing some years after the trial showed that the semen on her corpse was his. Barnes then claimed that he and Bass had an existing sexual relationship before the crime but on the advice of his original defense team he did not tell the jury.”1
This seems dubious on examination. Barnes was sentenced to death at this point and revealing that he had a relationship with the victim lacks credibility. It also lacks any supporting evidence, like a friend who knew of the relationship, or a photograph showing the victim and Barnes together.
But the analysis of the sperm found on the victim implies there may have been a relationship after all.
‘Libby Johnson, an independent forensic scientist who established the Harris County Medical Examiner’s DNA lab in 1991, analyzed the sperm samples. In Johnson’s view, several indicators show that Barnes most likely had sex with Bass at least 24 hours prior to her death. “If they’re claiming that he raped her and killed her right away,” Johnson says, “the findings are not consistent with that.”‘
The most problematic evidence was the blood evidence itself. It was also the most compelling evidence connecting Odell to the scene of the crime.
“The bloodstains found on Barnes’ clothing, and confirmed by DNA to have been Bass’s blood, were very small. This was inconsistent with the extremely violent nature of the killing and the amount of blood found at the scene. Tests revealed that the bloodstains contained an extremely high level of citric acid, which is used as a preservative in crime labs.” 2
The blood had in it citic acid, that could not have been in the blood at the time of the killing. It had to be added later. Therefore it seems quite likely that the blood was taken from Barnes upon arrest ( a common requirement) and later applied to the clothes to make it appear that Barnes was at the crime scene.
This itself is enough reasonable doubt to find Barnes not guilty.
The police framed Odell Barnes.
“Blood-preservative expert Kevin Ballard tested the spot of blood found on Barnes’ coveralls (which DNA testing eventually confirmed came from the victim). His conclusion: The blood was either accidentally spilled from a vial onto the coveralls by the state crime lab — or deliberately planted there. “This is the most blatant case of tainted evidence I’ve ever seen,” Ballard says.” 3
Odell Barnes was Executed March 1, 2000. He made a final statement before his lethal injection.
“I’d like to send great love to all my family members, my supporters, my attorneys. They have all supported me throughout this.
I thank you for proving my innocence, although it has not been acknowledged by the courts.
May you continue in the struggle and may you change all that’s being done here today and in the past.
Life has not been that good to me, but I believe that now, after meeting so many people who support me in this, that all things will come to an end, and may this be fruit of better judgements for the future.
That’s all I have to say.”
For his last meal request, Barnes wrote: “Justice, Equality , World Peace.”