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Roger Keith Coleman
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    (November 1, 1958-May 20, 1992)
    Resident of Grundy, Virginia
    Convicted of raping and murdering his sister-in-law, Wanda McCoy (March 10, 1981)
    Attracted attention from anti-death penalty advocates
    Virginia officials received 13,000 calls and letters asking for clemency
    Executed in the electric chair
    Posthumously conducted DNA tests proved that blood and semen found at the crime scene were Coleman’s (2006)
    He had been convicted of attempted rape (1977).
    Two months before the murder, he was arrested for indecent exposure.
    McCoy was attacked so savagely she was nearly beheaded.
    Virginia governor Douglas Wilder arranged a last-minute polygraph test, which Coleman failed.
    Some of his supporters accused another Grundy resident of being the real killer and stuck with their claims even after learning he was the wrong blood type.
    His last words were, ‘When my innocence is proven, I hope America will realize the injustice of the death penalty as all other civilized nations have.’
    He turned out to be a poor choice for poster boy for the anti-death penalty movement.
    His appeal was rejected for being filed three days after a deadline.
    In prison he founded ‘The Choice Is Yours,’ a program in which he lectured potential young offenders about the consequences of crime.
    Death penalty supporters argue that his case demonstrates that proper safeguards are in place.

Credit: C. Fishel

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