Hank Skinner will be executed today at 6 pm (CST) unless Texas Governor, Rick Perry orders a stay to allow for DNA testing. For anyone who hasn’t heard about #HankSkinner, here’s the AP story: http://tinyurl.com/yk4vvzz and the website: http://www.hankskinner.org/.
Whether you support or oppose the death penalty, the issue is not simply factual guilt or innocence. The issue is access to justice. See also, The Skeptical Juror’s post and The Medill Innocence Project coverage and ask yourself: why won’t Texas Governor Rick Perry grant a a 30-day stay of execution to allow for DNA testing?
According to a March 18th press release (via The Dallas Morning News):
“In response to a plea by the Innocence Project, Chromosomal Laboratories in Phoenix, Arizona has offered its accredited DNA testing services to help pursue justice. The offer was made to the Honorable Rick Perry, Governor of Texas for testing DNA evidence that could prove the innocence or guilt of Hank Skinner. Mr. Skinner is set to be executed on March 24th for the murder of his girlfriend and her two adult sons, which he was convicted of in 1995. The Innocence Project has asked that concerned individuals to urge Governor Perry to order a stay of execution until the testing can be completed.
DNA evidence in this case was never tested and the Texas’ highest criminal court has refused to intervene in the case. Mr. Skinner’s attorney claim that they have uncovered evidence that substantiates his claim that another suspect is involved and places doubt on his guilt of this crime. Mr. Skinner has always maintained his innocence and requested that DNA testing be done on potentially inculpatory evidence, in particular a windbreaker, knifes and hairs recovered from one of the victim’s hands.
While the Innocence Project does not maintain the innocence or guilt of Mr. Skinner, as they do not represent him, they point out that everything possible should be done before Mr. Skinner pays the ultimate price in what may be a colossal miscarriage of justice. When simple DNA testing may help prevent such a miscarriage, it seems implausible that the Governor and State of Texas would allow the execution to proceed. In order to help prevent this, Chromosomal Laboratories has decided to offer its services without any fees. We hope that the great State of Texas will accept this offer in the manner in which it is intended, to help promote justice.
About Chromosomal Laboratories, Inc.
Chromosomal Laboratories, Inc. is a full service DNA laboratory that specializes in providing advanced DNA testing for forensics, paternity, immigration and other relationships that can be resolved through DNA identification. Chromosomal Laboratories also provides research and development and DNA consulting services. The company is based in Phoenix, Arizona.”
Please also read the excellent blog posts by leading criminal defense trial lawyers, Brian Tannebaum, Scott H. Greenfield and Mark W. Bennett and my fellow civil trial lawyer David Sugerman.
I implore my readers to call Governor Perry at Tel: 512-463-1782 Fax: 512-463-1849 Main number: 512-463-2000 or sign the Change.Org online petition. Here is the Petition Text:
Order DNA Testing for Hank Skinner
Dear Governor Perry,
I’m writing to urge you to order a 30-day reprieve of execution for Henry W. Skinner to allow for critical DNA testing that could prove his innocence or guilt.
As you know, Skinner is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday, March 24. Since he was arrested in 1994, he has maintained his innocence of the three murders for which he was convicted. Untested biological evidence from the crime scene could definitively prove his guilt or innocence, and these tests should be conducted before going forward with Skinner’s execution. It is critical to the public’s trust in the criminal justice system that every piece of evidence is examined before the ultimate punishment is carried out.
Skinner’s request for DNA testing is not new — he has been seeking the tests for 10 years, and the evidence available is central to the identity of the perpetrator. Among the evidence Skinner is seeking to test are two knives from the crime scene, hairs from one victim’s hand and clippings of her fingernails, and a windbreaker possibly worn by an alternate suspect. Since Skinner’s trial, significant evidence of another person’s involvement in the crime has been developed. DNA testing could prove this theory or discredit it.
DNA testing has brought about a host of important reforms in the criminal justice system — helping to apprehend the perpetrators of crimes and overturning more than 250 wrongful convictions nationwide, including 40 in Texas. Under your administration, Texas had approved several important reforms based on the lessons of DNA testing and wrongful convictions.
I know you’re well aware of the power of DNA evidence in cases like Skinner’s. If his execution is allowed to go forward despite the untested evidence, it will deal a harsh blow to the trust citizens have in the Texas criminal justice system to seek truth and justice above all else.
You have the authority to delay this execution so DNA testing can be conducted. Please don’t allow Hank Skinner to be executed when evidence exists that could tell us for sure whether he is guilty or innocent.
Thank you for your attention to this critical matter.