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Hank Skinner

Texas plans to kill death row prisoner Hank Skinner by lethal injection today.  Even though DNA from the crime scene has never been tested, and even though Skinner has insisted for more than sixteen years that he is innocent, Texas plans today to have its inexorable revenge against Skinner for a triple homicide.  Stopping the execution now so that DNA testing can be conducted depends on long shots: Texas Governor Rick Perry and last minute appeals to the Supreme Court.

The New York Times reports:

Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner doesn't deny he was in the house where his girlfriend was fatally bludgeoned and her two adult sons stabbed to death in 1993, but he insists that DNA testing could exonerate him.

Skinner, scheduled to die Wednesday in Huntsville for the New Year's Eve triple slaying more than 16 years ago, visited with his French-born wife as he waited for the U.S. Supreme Court or Texas Gov. Rick Perry to decide whether to stop his execution.

He and his attorneys contend his lethal injection should be halted for DNA testing on evidence from the crime scene in the Texas Panhandle town of Pampa. Results of those tests could support his innocence claims, they said.

''It's real scary,'' Skinner, 47, said recently from death row. ''I've had dreams about being injected. I didn't commit this crime and I should be exonerated.''

Prosecutors and the Texas Courts have insisted that Skinner isn't entitled to DNA testing of evidence that was not tested before his 1995 trial.  His appointed lawyer inexplicably didn't demand it before trial. The remaining evidence in question will probably reveal whether Skinner or another man committed the murders for which Skinner was convicted.

Testing this evidence is important if Texas wants to be sure that it is not (again) killing an innocent person.  The amount of evidence is not large; a DNA testing lab has agreed to conduct the testing for free.  If testing does not show that Skinner is innocent, there would be slight reason to disturb his conviction.  On the other hand, if the testing exonerates Skinner, he should clearly be spared and released from confinement.

What is the role of this physical evidence in this case?  Dave Lindorff explains:

The thing about Skinner’s case is it would be relatively easy to prove whether or not he was really the killer of the three. There are two bloody knives that have never been tested for Skinner’s DNA--or for the DNA of Twila’s uncle, the man who had reportedly made several unwanted sexual advances at her earlier that evening, leading her to leave a party early, and who Skinner claims is the real killer. Nor was semen that was found on Twila Busby, who was raped, or skin found under her fingernails, ever DNA tested to see who they belonged to.

There were, to be sure, plenty of circumstantial reasons at the time of the trial to suspect Skinner. It is undisputed that he had been drunk and passed out on the couch in Busby’s house shortly before the murders, which occurred in the same room he was in. The drunken Skinner also staggered from the home in Pampa, TX, his hands bloodied, following the killings. But Skinner maintains that he had cut his hand, falling off the couch, and that the blood was his own. He says he had woken up to find Busby and her sons already dead.

Incredibly, police investigators at the crime scene never took fingernail clippings from Busby, nor did they take a vaginal swab at the scene, though she had clearly struggled and had apparently been raped.

This physical evidence should be tested.  The execution, which has waited for more than sixteen years, can be delayed an additional few months so that testing can be completed.  If the physical evidence does not exonerate Skinner, claims that Texas is executing an innocent man should be diminished.

The important questions for Texas today are these: what is the rush?  Isn't it more important after all of this time, to know the truth about Hank Skinner?  

Please sign this Innocence Project petition to Governor Perry.

----------------------
simulposted from The Dream Antilles and docuDharma

Originally posted to davidseth on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 07:35 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Please spare Hank Skinner. (21+ / 0-)

    I am opposed to state killing in all cases.  But that is not the issue in this case.  In this case the question is how far the state should go to assure that it does not kill someone who is innocent.

    Thank you for reading.  I will be gone for a few hours, but will return to respond to comments.  I apologize for this.

  •  Did Neugebauer call them baby killers? (0+ / 0-)

    Shove some healthcare down our throats, please!

    by Ann T Bush on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 07:41:20 AM PDT

  •  You are wasting your time (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shaviv

    Texas doesnt care.

  •  LOL (5+ / 0-)

    But Skinner maintains that he had cut his hand, falling off the couch

    That said, the death penalty is barbaric, and the way it's implemented in TX, with very few protections for the accused, has no place in modern human society.

    I'm in the pro-Obama wing of the Democratic Party.

    by doc2 on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 07:45:57 AM PDT

  •  Unfortunately I think the precedence for cases (5+ / 0-)

    like this was already set. IIRC there was a case in one of the Carolinas or Virginia where evidence had been gathered and not tested because the defense couldn't afford to do it. The evidence wasn't even allowed to be tested after the fact to see if an innocent man had been executed. The current SCOTUS doesn't seem like the type that would overturn that.

    Has anyone noticed the "Invisible Hand of the Free Market" is still giving us the bird?

    by ontheleftcoast on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 07:46:21 AM PDT

    •  It's outrageous that (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      ontheleftcoast

      the burden, financial or otherwise, of testing the evidence should fall to the defense.  Isn't it standard procedure of THE POLICE to do such testing?  Or can't they afford it either?  If "the state" is going to pursue a death sentence against a defendant, then no expense should be spared to prove it, one way or another.  

      "In our century, we've learned not to fear words" - Lt. Uhura

      by ShempLugosi on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 09:26:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  And here is how that would play in the public (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RonV
        1. Lawmaker "A" proposes law to mandate DNA testing for all death penalty cases. To be smart he claims it would be "the Christian thing to do" to sell it as moral.
        1. Opponent to "A" decides to run a commercial claiming "A" wants to spend your tax dollars defending child rapist murderers
        1. Public outcry about spending $1000 dollars grows by the day, whipped into a media frenzy by rightwing media outlets. Nevermind that killing someone is way more expensive than life without parole.
        1. Law gets shut down in committee never even seeing debate on the floor of the state legislature.
        1. Innocent poor people get sent to gas chamber.

        Does that about cover the situation?

        Has anyone noticed the "Invisible Hand of the Free Market" is still giving us the bird?

        by ontheleftcoast on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 09:41:47 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  no way they stop it (0+ / 0-)

    To be honest I think   there is a pretty good chance this guy is guilty but they should   test the dna to make sure.
    If he is innocent why didn't they test it at time of trial? So he either had a really rotten lawyer and he is being murdered or he did the crime and didn't want the dna to reveal it.
    I was a correction officer about 30 years ago for a few years and murderers all say they are innocent. My old CO instinct tells me he is guilty but I would definitely like to make sure.  There  is no human reason not to but the reality from a legal standpoint he probably won't win.
    Texas seems to pride itself on killing the most people.

    •  An answer to your question (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      capelza, Kingsmeg, mango, Stwriley

      Says pretty clearly in the body of the diary--

      His appointed lawyer inexplicably didn't demand it before trial.

      It's important to note that the request for DNA testing in this case isn't new.  Skinner has been trying for 10 years to get DNA tested.  

    •  I've read up on this case... (4+ / 0-)

      and I'd have to disagree with you.  It seems pretty clear from witnesses and expert testimony that at the time of the murder Skinner was incapacitated by a combination of drugs and alcohol that rendered him incapable of physically doing what he is supposed to have done.  It's not just a case here of untested DNA evidence, it's a case of numerous pieces of evidence that should have been presented at trial and was not, DNA included.  There are also serious issues with Skinner's court-appointed attorney and his crony relationship to the judge and prosecutor in the case.

      I have very little doubt that Skinner, even though he's not exactly the most upright individual, is entirely innocent of the crimes he's about to be executed for.  I hope Perry will relent and issue a stay or that the Supreme Court will step in, but I fear that they will not.

      Conservito delenda est pro is deleo orbis terrarum!

      by Stwriley on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 08:10:38 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  No test because of terrible lawyering. nt (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buckeye BattleCry, capelza
    •  Really silly (4+ / 0-)

      murderers all say they are innocent

      All innocent people also say they are innocent. Saying you are innocent should not make people like you assume you are guilty.

      I'm in the pro-Obama wing of the Democratic Party.

      by doc2 on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 08:27:35 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yeah, his comment prompts me to say (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        davidseth

        "spoken like a true screw".  

        "In our century, we've learned not to fear words" - Lt. Uhura

        by ShempLugosi on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 09:35:01 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  that makes no sense (0+ / 0-)

        So are we to assume that every inmate is innocent because they say they are. The reality is 99% of people incarcerated belong there and most convicted murderers did it.
        That said I am against the death penalty just because of the possibility of killing someone innocent. Still let me tell you that after observing life in
        a prison for 3 years, death is the easy way out for most murderers.
        .

  •  Bullshit. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    licorice114

    One the day of the crime, an officer followed a blood trail four blocks to a trailer home of a female friend of Skinner. He was in a closet.

    His lawyer didn't want DNA testing because it would have been even more incriminating at the time, so Skinner not only did not fire his lawyer, he agreed to no DNA testing.

    Not to mention his bloody handprints were all over place where his wife and two boys lay dead.

    So the DNA test, Skinner said no, because he knew it would only a faster trip to Old Smokey.

    He didn't want it because he was afraid it would convict him, and now that he's been proven guilty, he wants it. You can't have it both ways.

    http://www.cca.courts.state.tx.us/...

    He killed more than one person at one time, that's the oldest rule for a hanging in Texas on the books.

    If you don't like it, change the law, but don't go on a crusader for raping murder who is as guilty as the day is long.

  •  This outrage will go mostly unnoticed... (12+ / 0-)

    ...in all the other media and blogmedia hubbub today. This execution, and surely there will be an execution should be covered on the front page everywhere.

    Although I believe the death penalty wrong in all cases, this is one of those that is especially disgusting because Texas "justice" refuses to take the simple step of proving or disproving the defendant's claim that DNA could exonerate him. In other words, they don't care. In other words, they are soon to be accomplices in cold-blooded murder.

    Justice Harry Blackmun wrote in his dissent in >Herrera v. Collins,, 1993, another Texas death penalty case:

    We really ... are being asked to decide whether the Constitution forbids the execution of a person who has been validly convicted and sentenced, but who, nonetheless, can prove his innocence with newly discovered evidence. Despite the State of Texas' astonishing protestation to the contrary ... I do not see how the answer can be anything but "yes." ...

    [N]othing could be more contrary to contemporary standards of decency or more shocking to the conscience than to execute a person who is actually innocent. ...

    Of one thing, however, I am certain. Just as an execution without adequate safeguards is unacceptable, so too is an execution when the condemned prisoner can prove that he is innocent. The execution of a person who can show that he is innocent comes perilously close to simple murder. [My boldface]

    I refuse to accept "no can do" as a proper slogan for progressives.

    by Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 08:14:33 AM PDT

    •  There is an issue with 15yr old DNA. (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Buckeye BattleCry, kalmoth, capelza, Mrs M

      It will have broken down to some extent, and the results may be inconclusive one way or the other. If it is true that he waived the opportunity to look at DNA evidence at his trial, I am not convinced that he should get to change his mind now, after 15 years of degradation. That said, I vehemently oppose the death penalty, even for confirmed murderers, so I'm with the diarist on that.

      I'm in the pro-Obama wing of the Democratic Party.

      by doc2 on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 08:34:16 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Eh (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      capelza, davidseth

      Interesting.  I've come to have a fine appreciation of your moral sense, MB, and would like to know when it seems right?

      I could stretch it, "ticking bomb" style, and imagine an island someplace where there are no resources to contain or support a sociopathic murderer.  I can easily imagine any number of self defense scenarios where killing is a deeply regretted necessity.  But in practice, I cannot picture a realistic case where a rich society is served by taking life.  Is anything but diminished, in the most awful ways.

      ...j'ai découvert que tout le malheur des hommes vient d'une seule chose, qui est de ne savoir pas demeurer en repos dans une chambre.

      by jessical on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 09:24:47 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  ???? (0+ / 0-)

        I read and re-read MB's post. His words:

        Although I believe the death penalty wrong in all cases, this is one of those that is especially disgusting because Texas "justice" refuses to take the simple step of proving or disproving the defendant's claim that DNA could exonerate him. In other words, they don't care. In other words, they are soon to be accomplices in cold-blooded murder.

        Seems to me that is 100% against the death penalty in all cases. It is never right. Why would you think he would make an exception? This case is wrong for more than the simple reason of being opposed to the death penalty is what I think he was trying to say. Not that there are cases it would be justified.

        Has anyone noticed the "Invisible Hand of the Free Market" is still giving us the bird?

        by ontheleftcoast on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 10:27:42 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  I believe in self-defense. If I feel ... (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        CatM, jessical, davidseth, Larsstephens

        ...I or my loved ones are in imminent danger, I will not hesitate to fight back, even if it may mean the death of the attacker.

        But as for state-sanctioned executions? Never.

        My wife and I include in our wills the following statement:

        Special Circumstances: If I should be the victim of a murder, and the perpetrator of this crime is caught, tried and convicted; or if said perpetrator confesses to this murder; I instruct my attorney-in-fact to implore the prosecutor, jury, judge or others adjudicating this case not to seek or impose the death penalty, a punishment I oppose under all circumstances.

        I refuse to accept "no can do" as a proper slogan for progressives.

        by Meteor Blades on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 03:53:51 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Perilously close? (0+ / 0-)

      How about "bull's eye!"

      You cannot present a monster with a flower. Nora Astorga.

      by vivens fons on Wed Mar 24, 2010 at 06:02:50 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

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