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Skinner gets reprieve from SCOTUS


The U.S. Supreme Court today stayed the execution of capital killer Henry Skinner one hour before he was to be put to death for the 1993 murders of his Pampa girlfriend and her two adult sons.

The court halted the execution to allow time to consider an appeals court’s rejection of Skinner’s civil rights claim that he is entitled to more DNA testing of bloody knives, material beneath the dead woman’s fingernails, rape kit samples and other items found at the murder scene.


“We are relieved that the U.S. Supreme Court has intervened to prevent Mr. Skinner’s execution,” said his attorney, Rob Owen. “As a result of this action, the court will have more time to determine whether to hear his appeal. This action suggests that the court believes there are important issues that require closer examination. We remain hopeful that the court will agree to hear Mr. Skinner’s case and ultimately allow him the chance to prove his innocence through DNA testing.”

Skinner’s case gained international notoriety after journalism students from Chicago’s Northwestern University reviewed the case, locating potential witnesses who hadn’t been interrogated and drawing attention to the fact that seemingly important items never had been subjected to DNA testing.

Again, you can read the Trib’s two-part story here and here. Really, I don’t see the issue with testing the DNA. Given the questions about the case and the existence of a viable alternate suspect, it just makes sense to find out what it says. Wouldn’t it be better to know now and not after Skinner has been executed to find out that none of it was a match for him? And if it turns out that it is all his, he can still be strapped to the gurney later. Test and be sure.

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One Comment

  1. jaye says:

    The “big f*cking deal” (a phrase I intend to use a lot) is who pays for the testing. Does the state pay for the defendant’s testing or does the defendant who cannot afford to pay, cannot afford experts witnesses, etc.

    I am with you. Test it. And if it is exculpatory turn it over to the defense. One would hope, and it is the rule, that they do turn it over, but many will tell you they don’t get it until day of trial in Harris County, Texas.

    Personally, if I were defending someone, I would worry about using the poor excuse for a crime lab like Harris County’s. But using a private lab is very expensive.

    It isn’t that justice is so expensive, it is that we are entitled to as much justice as we an afford. Public defenders offices would have the resources that public prosecutors offices have. But it is still nearly impossible to convince some county commissioners to have one. In other counties in Texas they do exist. The federal system has them of course.