The Case For & Against Hank Skinner

“There is simply no justifiable reason why Texas continues to waste taxpayer dollars in its decade-long fight to prevent scientific testing in Mr. Skinner’s case. We implore you to take the lead in the search for truth in this case.”

-From the letter written to Gov. Rick Perry by more than a dozen current and former lawmakers, prosecutors, police officers and even a former Texas governor.

Hank Skinner

One week from today, on Nov. 9th, Texas is set to carry out another execution, one that bears a striking resemblance to the Troy Davis case because of the widespread doubt about the inmate’s innocence. The inmate in question is Hank Skinner, who has been sitting on death row since the 1995 murders of his girlfriend and her two adult sons in her home in Pampa, Texas on New Year’s Eve. Skinner has steadfastly maintained his innocence, arguing that he was too inebriated from a mixture of vodka and codeine to overpower the three victims.

The main issue in the Skinner case is the wealth of physical evidence available. Some of it was tested, such as a blood trailed leading from the home, which excluded Skinner. Other elements placed Skinner at the scene, which he explains with the fact that he was a regular visitor at the home. However, what’s problematic is the wealth of evidence available that remains untested. There is a rape kit. It has never been tested. There are murder weapons. They have never been tested. There are hairs that were clutched in the female victim’s hand. Again, they haven’t been tested. There is a windbreaker there that defense lawyers say strongly resembles the victim’s uncle’s that was found two feet from her body and covered in blood. It was never tested.

Skinner has been fighting to get this DNA evidence tested for years now, and even as thousands are rallying to the case, the machine of death in Texas continues marching on. Without some 11th hour intervention, Skinner, a possibly innocent man, will be executed in a week.

There’s a wealth of writing about this topic that does a far better job discussing it than I ever could, so I’ve linked to some articles below.

Texas to Condemned Man: Execution First, DNA Later: This article, written by David Protess, does a great job summing up the highlights of the issue. Prowess by the way was until recently the head of the Innocence Project at Northwestern University, which was one of the driving forces in freeing a number of wrongfully convicted death row inmates in Illinois and in convincing Gov. Ryan to abolish the death penalty in Illinois. If you only read one of the articles I’m posting here, read this one. Protess knows his stuff.

Let DNA Decide the Henry Skinner Death Row Case: This editorial in the Washington Post calls for testing of the DNA evidence, writing “The state court judge overseeing the case should put the execution date on hold and order the testing. We oppose capital punishment, but for all anyone knows, the results could definitively prove that Mr. Skinner is guilty. The state should want this level of proof before it puts a man to death.”

Texas Must Test DNA Before Carrying Out Skinner Execution: This article was written by Kirk Bloodsworth, who was the first death row inmate exonerated by DNA in the U.S. As such, he offers a unique perspective on the Skinner case.

Skinner Lawyer: DNA Decision Likely Up To State Court: I think I’ve mentioned this before but the Texas Tribune has some incredible coverage of this case. I can’t say enough good things about the in-depth coverage they provide to the issues going on in Texas. There’s even a whole topic page for Skinner with all the articles you could want about new developments in the case. It’s well worth a look.

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