DNA testing could prove a death row inmates innocence
Updates listed at the foot of this item
Hank Skinner has been on Texas death row since 1995 for a 1993 murder he steadfastly has said he did not commit. Hank, aged 49, was convicted and sentenced to death in 1995 for the killing of his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons a crime he has always strongly claimed that he didn’t commit.
After drinking alcohol and consuming Xanax the night of the murder, he claimed he was too intoxicated to have committed the crimes and has been seeking DNA testing for over a decade.
Whilst Skinner does not deny that he was in the home the evening that Busby was murdered, he maintains that he was knocked out by a potent cocktail of booze and codeine, the consequence of an allergic reaction to the pain medication. He has always maintained that he awoke to find the carnage.
Toxicology testing revealed a near fatal dose of drugs were in his system; even if he had not been passed out, his legal team have argued that he would not have had the strength or coordination to attack and kill three healthy adults.
He was scheduled to be executed in November 2011 despite his claims of innocence and his pending request for DNA tests. He came within an hour of lethal injection before receiving a stay of execution.
His legal team asked a federal court to keep his civil lawsuit active as they try to recover evidence for new DNA testing they claim may prove his innocence. 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.
The legal team for Hank Skinner said; “We are deeply disappointed that the trial court has denied Mr. Skinner’s request for DNA testing,” Owen said in a statement. “…It will now be up to the Court of Criminal Appeals to give Mr. Skinner’s case the deliberate consideration that is necessary to ensure a correct result. We are confident that upon such careful review, the Court will conclude that DNA testing is necessary in this case to ensure the reliability of the verdict.”
In just two days, more than 130,000 people signed petitions calling on Texas governor and presidential candidate Perry to stay the execution until the evidence is tested.
In 2000, the Medill Innocence Project at North-western University began investigating the Skinner case when student’s uncovered physical evidence that witnesses said was critical to the case. The evidence includes a rape kit; fingernail clippings from Twila Busby; the murder weapons; and a windbreaker covered in blood and hair, found near the murder scene. The prosecution did not use this evidence in trial, and Skinner’s defence attorney did not ask for it, despite Skinner’s requests.
Among the items found next to the body of Twila Busby in 1993 was a windbreaker, spattered with blood, stained with sweat, and with two human hairs attached. Busby had been raped and bludgeoned to death in the home she shared with her boyfriend and her two adult sons, in the Texas Panhandle town of Pampa. Also found in the house were two knives, one of which was a likely murder weapon, and a bloody towel.
With so much physical evidence surrounding the deaths of Busby and her sons, the potential for DNA leading conclusively to the killer was enormous. But 18 years later, none of the items had ever been tested. Neither were fingernail scrapings taken from Busby, nor swabs obtained from her rape kit.