Almost every time I debate the death penalty, someone will bring up the DPIC's notorious "innocence list" as a list of people sentenced to death who actually did not commit the crime. We and others have tried for years to educate the public and especially the press that it is nothing of the sort, but the message doesn't seem to penetrate, despite Ward Campbell's thorough refutations here and here. Justice Scalia hammered the point in Kansas v. Marsh, but it's too early to tell if that has had any effect.
Sometimes a single dramatic case can have more impact than a stack of scholarly work. That case may be coming, according to this article by Paul Woolverton in the Fayetteville (NC) Observer (hat tip: federalist). "Innocent" number 39, Timothy Hennis, may soon be convicted of the very murders for which he was "exonerated."
According to the article, in 1985 Hennis was an Army sergeant stationed at Fort Bragg. Capt. Gary Eastburn was permanently stationed at Pope Air Force Base, also in North Carolina, but away on temporary duty. Someone entered the Eastburn home, raped and murdered Kathryn Eastburn, and stabbed to death two of the Eastburn's children, Kara Sue, 5, and Erin Nicole, 3, but left 22-month-old Jana unharmed.
Hennis was tried for the crimes, convicted, and sentenced to death. The North Carolina Supreme Court reversed and ordered a new trial, and Hennis was acquitted on retrial in 1989.
Fast-forward to 2005. A homicide detective in the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office has evidence from the crime retested with modern DNA technology not available at the time of the retrial. It points to Hennis.
The Double Jeopardy Clause protects Hennis from retrial for this crime by the State of North Carolina, but not by the United States. Because he is retired military, he can be recalled to active duty to face court-martial.
In 1985, O'Callahan v. Parker, 395 U.S. 258 (1969) was the law, and a service member could be court-martialed only for offenses that were service connected. I would think that the slaughter of another service member's family is service connected. In the Solorio case, the Court of Military Appeals held that sexual abuse of another member's daughters was. On certiorari, though, the Supreme Court simply decided to overrule O'Callahan. See Solorio v. United States, 483 U.S. 435 (1987). Hennis may argue that it would be unfair to apply that ruling retroactively to a 1985 crime, but since it applied to Solorio, it should apply to everyone similarly situated. Even if it doesn't apply, on the CMA's theory this case is service connected. I doubt he will get out of it that way.
Of course, it is too early to judge how strong the prosecution case is. But if the DNA does positively identify Hennis as the killer, and if he is convicted of the very murders for which he was "exonerated," this could be the perfect example to show what bunk the "innocence list" really is.