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Arkansas death row inmate spared from execution appeals to state Supreme Court for new DNA testing

2019-09-06

Stacey Johnson has been twice convicted of killing Carol Heath. (AP)

An Arkansas death row inmate who was spared from execution two years ago wants new DNA testing of evidence in his case.

Stacey Johnson’s lawyers appeared before the state Supreme Court in Little Rock on Thursday as he appeals a lower court’s ruling denying his request.

Johnson has been convicted twice in the brutal 1993 murder of young mother Carol Heath, who was found in her De Queen home with her throat “cut to the bone,” according to court documents. She was also strangled and suffered blunt-force head injuries. Heath was 25.

The defendant was one of eight inmates scheduled for execution in April 2017, but he was granted a last-minute stay by the state Supreme Court so he could seek further DNA testing, according to the Texarkana Gazette. Three others received stays, and the other four were executed.

The state’s supply of lethal injection drugs expired in January and they have not been replaced. As a result, Arkansas does not have any executions currently scheduled.

Dr. Frank Peretti, an associate medical examiner for the State Crime Lab, said two years ago that DNA in hairs found on Heath’s body matched Johnson’s.

“The final DNA test of the hairs indicated a statistical frequency distribution that the genetic material belonged to someone in the African-American population other than the appellant (Johnson) was 1 in 20 million,” read the 2017 ruling. “Another retest is not necessary.”

With News Wire Services