At least seven of the 12 jurors who found Hank Skinner guilty of killing his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons over fifteen years ago now say Texas should conduct post-conviction DNA testing.
For years, Skinner has sought access to untested DNA evidence that he says could prove his innocence. Late last month, the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear Skinner’s case on the issue of whether a defendant can obtain post-conviction DNA testing through a civil rights claim.
Skinner’s attorneys say they have developed evidence since his trial that calls his guilt into doubt and points to the possible involvement of an alternate suspect. Among the evidence Skinner is seeking to test are knives from the crime scene, hairs from the victim’s hand and a windbreaker possibly worn by the perpetrator. Now, even the jurors who found Skinner guilty say the new information would have given them pause. Students working with Northwestern University’s Medill Innocence Project recently traveled to Forth Worth to locate and interview jurors who convicted Skinner in 1995. They found eight jurors; seven said Skinner should now have access to the tests, one declined to comment.
Five of the jurors said they may have had reasonable doubt of Skinner’s guilt if they knew then about the case what we know now. But, 15 years ago, the jury found Skinner guilty in less than two hours and he was sentenced to death.
“What’s right is right and what’s wrong is wrong,” one juror, Jerry Williams, told the Northwestern students. “It should have been tested before…Somebody’s life is at stake.”
The Supreme Court is expected to hear oral arguments in the case in its next term, which begins in October.