Save Willie Enoch

Why won't they allow independent testing?

By: Andy Thayer

Illinois Governor Jim Edgar and his assorted hangers-on are preparing to wash their hands of death row inmate Willie Enoch, with his new execution date set for March 18th. Despite numerous contradictions in the state's case and evidence pointing to another suspect, Enoch was convicted and sentenced to death for the 1983 murder of Armanda "Kay" Burns.

From the moment he was arrested Enoch has maintained his innocence and when DNA testing technology became available a few years ago, Enoch and his defense team insisted on having the crime scene evidence tested by an independent lab at the defense's expense.

Peoria States Attorney Kevin Lyons refused to allow any DNA testing until a judge forced him to relent with less than a month to go before Enoch's first execution date last May. Even then, Lyons consented to the tests on the provision that they were done by the State of Illinois alone, and pointedly refused to allow simultaneous testing by an independent lab as the Enoch defense team had requested. On May 5th the state released a report summarizing its tests, without releasing the test data themselves, and said they definitively linked Enoch to Armanda Burns' murder.

Regular readers of The New Abolitionist know that we oppose capital punishment regardless of guilt or innocence of the accused, because it is a barbaric punishment which overwhelmingly targets racial minorities and is used exclusively against the poor with little regard to their actual guilt.

That said, we must still say that in Enoch's case, guilt has yet to be definitively proven. We must ask, why has Lyons refused independent testing of the evidence when it wouldn't cost the government a single dime? Illinois is a state where several other high profile death penalty cases - the Ford Heights Four, Rolando Cruz and Alejandro Hernandez, to name a few - have seen police and prosecutors deliberately manufacture evidence to further their careers, justice be damned. This is a state so corrupt that despite Chicago's firing of a prominent police commander for systematic torture, it keeps ten of his victims on death row, and dozens more serving long-term sentences.

We oppose Enoch's execution regardless of his guilt or innocence. At the same time we say to States Attorney Kevin Lyons and his cronies, why are you afraid of DNA testing by an independent lab?