Update: On Monday afternoon, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals stayed Skinner’s execution to review how changes in the state law on DNA testing requests affect cases like Skinner’s.
Our piece on Hank Skinner, who is scheduled to be executed in Texas this Wednesday, appears today over at Mother Jones.
“Any time DNA evidence can be used in its context and be relevant as to the guilt or innocence of a person on death row, we need to use it.” This was the statement of none other than George W. Bush, Texas governor. He said it in June 2000, about granting a last-minute reprieve to death row inmate Ricky McGinn, who was seeking DNA testing of forensic evidence he claimed might exonerate him. (It didn’t, as it turned out, and McGinn was executed several months later.) Bush was running for president when he made his decision to delay the execution to allow for DNA testing.
Today, Texas governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry faces an almost identical decision with the case of Hank Skinner—the main difference being a greater likelihood that Skinner might actually be innocent of the crime for which he has been sentenced to death. Skinner, who is scheduled for execution on November 9, was convicted in 1995 of killing his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons. He insists he was passed out from intoxication at the time, and that the real perpetrator was probably Busby’s uncle (who has since died). At the time of his trial, Skinner’s lawyers chose not to have certain items tested, they said, because his DNA would likely be everywhere in the home he shared with the victim. But since 2000, Skinner has been arguing that there’s a chance DNA evidence could exonerate him.
The odds of getting that chance from the Perry administration look slim. On Skinner’s last scheduled execution date, in March 2010, it was the US Supreme Court, not Perry, who issued an eleventh-hour stay…
Read the rest on MotherJones.com.
We will also be publishing excerpts from some of Hank Skinner’s own writings over the past several years. Check back later today for these dispatches from Texas death row.