Archive for May 20

20 May 1992 – Roger Keith Coleman

Posted in Death penalty, Electric chair with tags , , , , on May 20 by Old Sparky

Roger Keith ColemanDespite pleas of innocence, Virginia was hell-bent on executing Roger Keith Coleman today in 1992.

Coalminer Coleman was found guilty of rape and murder, after his sister-in-law was found stabbed to death. With a previous record of attempted rape and no apparent sign of forced entry in to the house, suspicion fell on the victim’s brother-in-law, especially as Wanda McCoy (the victim) was found with dark dust on her body.

For and against

Indeed, DNA tests are said to have unequivocally proved the victim’s assailant had been Coleman. But he had strong alibis for the night of the murder and there was a fingerprint at the doorway, which had not been taken in for analysis.

Yet things were never going to look too good when a fellow inmate, by the name of Roger Matney, came forward to testify that Coleman had admitted his guilt.

Even more damningly, his pubic hairs had found their way onto the murdered body, and the semen sample taken from inside her was also posthumously deemed to be his – at least it had an overwhelming 19 million to one chance of being someone else’s.

Much later, Coleman was to fail a lie detector test to boot, but then again, the test had been administered just hours before the condemned man was due to die.


Maybe he blagged it well, after all, what did Coleman have to lose. Yet he managed to seduce some of the most hardened hacks into thinking that he may be innocent. Coleman put up such a sincere fight against his penalty that he persuaded ‘Time’ magazine to run a piece on him in the run-up to his execution, and they even splashed his mug over the cover.

Surprisingly, even after death, the media circus continued – the newspapers lobbied the courts to retest the DNA samples, but this was flatly refused. The attorney general’s office believed that ‘the public did not have a ‘right to know’, but this only prompted the belief that there was something to hide.

So, we’ll never know. Coleman was executed on Old Sparky in Virginia, aged 33.

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