News 09.07.11

Texas Death Row Inmate Seeks DNA Testing Under New Law, Contests Execution

Last week, attorneys for Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner filed a motion seeking DNA testing under a new law that expands access to testing. As of this month, post-conviction testing is available for DNA evidence not previously analyzed, and for DNA evidence that was tested but that can be re-examined with newer technology. Previously, legislation allowed testing only in cases in which DNA tests were not conducted during the original trial because the technology was unavailable or for some other reason that was not the fault of the defendant, reported the Texas Tribune.

Hank Skinner was sentenced to death in 1995 for allegedly killing his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons in their Pampa, Texas, home. Skinner says he didn’t commit the crime and has sought DNA testing on probative evidence from the crime scene for over a decade.

“Texas is wrong to seek Hank Skinner’s execution without allowing for DNA testing,” Rob Owen, one of Skinner’s lawyers and director of the University of Texas School of Law’s Capital Punishment Clinic, said in a statement. “The state should be leading the search for truth, instead of continuing to waste taxpayer dollars on its 11-year-long campaign to block testing of critically important scientific evidence.”

Attorneys for Skinner, who was granted a stay of execution last year just minutes before he was set to be executed, also asked the court to set aside Skinner’s new execution date, which is scheduled for November 9, 2011.  

 “Testing the evidence will serve the public interest by providing certainty in this case,” said Nina Morrison, staff attorney at the Innocence Project. “It’s just common sense to test the DNA evidence.”


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