Last month, the Tennessee Senate Judiciary Committee unanimously passed a bill that would require biological evidence collected in death sentence cases to be preserved throughout a defendant’s life or incarceration. Nashville Republican Senator Steve Dickerson sponsored the bill. A similar bill, sponsored by Representative Jeremy Faison, was presented to a House subcommittee that same day.
During a committee meeting the week before, Dickerson told committee members that although they do believe most biological evidence has been preserved, the bill would eliminate any doubts. A Tennessee Bureau of Investigations representative, however, testified later that it is already policy to preserve that evidence, since doing so is the only way to ensure an innocent person is not executed.
At that same committee meeting, Ray Krone also testified. He was sentenced to death for the 1991 murder of a 36-year-old woman in Phoenix, Arizona; a murder that he did not commit. Krone, who said he usually does not use notes when speaking, read from a prepared statement while talking to legislators because he was unsure whether he would be able to keep his composure.
Despite being arrested and charged for the crime, Krone said he still felt confident because he knew he was innocent and believed in the system and government.
While a public defender was assigned to represent Krone for a mere $5,000, the bite mark expert who testified that the bite marks on the victim belonged to Krone received $50,000 for his testimony.
In 1996, Krone’s original conviction was overturned on appeal based on procedural errors, winning him a new trial. He was once again convicted, however, but was spared the death penalty and sentenced to life in prison because the judge had doubts about his guilt.
In 2002, biological evidence used in DNA testing proved Krone’s innocence—the same kind of evidence detailed in Dickerson’s bill. That test identified Kenneth Phillips, Jr. as the real perpetrator.
Following the 1976 reinstatement of the death penalty, Krone was the 100th inmate to be exonerated from death row.