News 05.25.10

U.S. Supreme Court Will Hear Death Row Prisoner’s Case

Two months after the U.S. Supreme Court issued a last-minute stay of execution for Texas death row prisoner Hank Skinner, it has agreed to hear oral arguments in the case and consider the issue of whether a defendant can obtain post-conviction DNA testing through a civil rights claim.

The argument before the Justices is whether federal civil-rights law applies to a request seeking DNA testing of biological evidence where it can prove innocence. The decision could provide prisoners a significant opportunity for post-conviction testing in cases where DNA evidence has been preserved.

“We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Mr. Skinner’s appeal,” said Skinner’s lead attorney, Rob Owen. “That decision represents the necessary first step to our eventually obtaining the DNA testing that Mr. Skinner has long sought. We look forward to the opportunity to persuade the Court that if a State official arbitrarily denies a prisoner access to evidence for DNA testing, the prisoner should be allowed to challenge that decision in a federal civil rights lawsuit.”

Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for killing his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons – a crime he says he didn’t commit. After drinking alcohol and consuming Xanax the night of the murder, he said he was too intoxicated to have committed the crimes and has suggested that DNA testing may lead to an alternate suspect.

Skinner is seeking DNA testing conducted on evidence that wasn’t used at the trial, including vaginal swabs, two bloody knives and hair found in the victim’s hand.

Read more on the U.S. Supreme Court and Skinner here:

Fort Worth Star-Telegram:

Supreme Court to Hear Texas Death Row Case


Texas Tribune:

Justice Delayed


The New York Times



Supreme Court to Hear Texas Death Row Case


Photo Credit:

Texas Tribune

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