With DNA Still Untested, Texas Prisoner Hank Skinner Scheduled to Die Tonight
Last month, a Texas judge granted death row prisoner Hank Skinner a temporary stay of execution, giving him a one-month lease on life beyond his February 24th execution date.
For his lawyers, the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University, and Amnesty International and other activists, this meant a one-month window to fight like hell to get critical DNA evidence in his case tested for the first time. Earlier this month, Chromosomal Laboratories, a DNA laboratory in Phoenix, AZ, offered to analyze the DNA evidence within 30 days and free of charge, if Gov. Rick Perry would grant permission.
But one month later, Skinner is set to die anyway. The courts have turned him down. The Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles has turned him down. Barring intervention from the governor, Skinner will be executed in the Huntsville death chamber at 6pm.
Skinner sits on death row for the 1993 murder of his girlfriend, Twila Jean Busby, and her two adult sons, who were stabbed to death on New Years Eve. Subsequent investigations into his case, however, have revealed alarming evidence that Skinner could be innocent of the crime. ( Read about the case in detail here.)
"In more than twenty years of investigating and researching possible wrongful convictions, I have rarely seen a case this circumstantial and shaky in which the prisoner was actually guilty,” says Medill Innocence Project Director David Protess.
Many Texans share his alarm, including state Senator Rodney Ellis and state Representative Elliott Naishtat, who yesterday sent letters to Gov. Perry urging him to grant a 30-day reprieve for Skinner.
"The state's determination to execute Hank Skinner tomorrow should make even death-penalty supporters go pale," the Dallas Morning News wrote in an editorial yesterday.
Key evidence in the 1993 murder case has never undergone DNA analysis. Skinner may be guilty of a bloody triple slaying ... but every sliver of doubt must be eliminated before the state exercises its life-or-death authority.
We trust that Gov. Rick Perry agrees with that, and we urge him to use the power of his office to postpone tomorrow's planned execution as insurance against miscarriage of justice.
Unfortunately, as we have seen again and again and again and again, Rick Perry has never let concerns over innocence get in the way of a good execution. With 212 executions under his belt, killing Hank Skinner tonight will be business as usual.
To demand a stay of execution for Hank Skinner, call Gov. Perry at (512) 463-1782 or Fax: (512) 463-1849.