News 03.15.10

Texas Man Set to Be Executed Despite Untested DNA

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 a decade. Despite his pleas for testing and further examination of evidence, Texas officials have scheduled his execution for March 24.

In an op-ed in the Dallas Morning News, Innocence Project Co-Director Barry Scheck joined others in calling on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to order a stay in Skinner’s case so that DNA testing can proceed. Skinner’s attorneys made a similar request

in a letter to Perry last week


Scheck was joined in the op-ed by Cory Session, whose brother Timothy Cole was exonerated posthumously in Texas last year, and Rodney Ellis, a Texas state senator and the chairman of the Innocence Project Board of Directors. They wrote:

In Tim Cole’s case, solid science came too late. Perry was right to pardon him, but he would do well to learn from this case and make sure it doesn’t happen to anyone else.

One such person might be Hank Skinner, who is set to be executed March 24. Skinner has requested DNA testing for 10 years, and there is no good reason for state officials to continue blocking these efforts.

We don’t know whether Hank Skinner is guilty or innocent. But we know the governor has the power to step in and delay the execution so DNA testing can be done to resolve this case once and for all — before Skinner is executed.

Read the full op-ed here


Last week, former Texas prosecutor Sam Millsap

wrote in the Houston Chronicle

that Texas should conduct testing in Skinner’s case in order to avoid the possible “horror of executing an innocent man.”

Calls for testing in Skinner’s case come after months of worldwide attention to the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was executed in Texas in 2004 despite evidence of his innocence. Since Willingham’s execution, several independent scientific studies have determined that the forensic analysis used to convict him was wrong. A 16,000-word story in the New Yorker magazine last year went on to discredit all of the evidence used against Willingham, including the forensic analysis, the informant’s testimony, other witness testimony and additional circumstantial evidence.

Learn more about Hank Skinner’s case


Learn more about Willingham’s case


Seventeen people have been proven innocent and exonerated by DNA testing in the United States after serving time on death row.

Learn about their cases here


Photo: Texas Tribune

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