Earlier this year, the Arkansas Supreme Court upheld a stay on the execution of Stacey Johnson and now he and his attorneys are in De Queen arguing for new DNA testing in the case.
Johnson's attorneys, with help from the Innocence Project, have said that newer DNA testing has yet to be performed in his case and could prove his innocence in the crime.
The Texarkana Gazette reported that on Wednesday witnesses discussed the advances in DNA testing over the past 25 years since Carol Jean Heath's death.
"We've established that modern DNA testing methods can prove Mr. Johnson's innocence," said Karen Thompson, an attorney with the Innocence Project, "and Arkansas law clearly established that Mr. Johnson is entitled to that testing."
If Johnson's request is granted, that means hair and fingernail samples along with swabs taken from the victim's wounds could be analyzed under the new tests. Clothing worn by the alleged suspect during the time of the murder could be tested as well.
"This early generation DNA testing also provided no results identifying the murderer on the shirts left at the highway rest stop, swabbings of bite marks found on the victim's breasts, and other relevant items" The Innocence Project said in a press release sent during the April executions.
The Innocence Project have said that Johnson's conviction "rested largely on biological evidence" and the testimony of the victim's 6-year-old daughter. Johnson's first conviction was overturned because the 6-year-old was found "not mentally competent" to testify because of her age. But in the second conviction, the daughter's testimony was allowed.
At Wednesday's hearing, attorneys for Johnson asked the judge to allow expert testimony on the science behind eye-witness accounts. Prosecutor Bryan Chessir said it was an attempt to "attack the testimony" of the 6-year-old.
Johnson's attorneys have asked for the new testing because they say "limited sensitivity of DNA technology" available at the time didn't allow for testing on the sexual assault evidence collected from the victim.
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