Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Skinner Scheduled for Execution: DNA Testing Unresloved

For the fourth time, the state of Texas is scheduled to execute death row inmate Hank Skinner for the 1993 murders of his live-in girlfriend and her two sons, according The Texas Tribune .  Skinner is scheduled to be executed on November 9, 2011.

The jury convicted him in 1995. But not all the available DNA evidence was tested. A rape kit, biological material from Twila Busby's fingernails, sweat from a man’s jacket resembling one that another potential suspect often wore, a bloody towel and knives have never been tested. Skinner's original trial lawyers worried the results might be incriminating. But Skinner has asked the state to release the evidence now for testing.

Texas courts have repeatedly said no. Citing the 2001 law, they ruled that Skinner had his chance in 1995. They have also agreed with prosecutors who contend that more tests wouldn’t prove that Skinner was innocent, reported the Tribune.

But less than an hour before Skinner was scheduled for execution in 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay. After a hearing, the high court sent the case back to the federal district court to decide whether Skinner is entitled to additional DNA testing. That court is set to decide in the coming months whether Texas courts have arbitrarily and unconstitutionally applied the state's 2001 post-conviction DNA testing law.

The Washington Post has called for DNA testing. "The state court judge overseeing the case should put the execution date on hold and order the testing. We oppose capital punishment, but for all anyone knows, the results could definitively prove that Mr. Skinner is guilty. The state should want this level of proof before it puts a man to death."

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