civil rights law death penalty DNA testing execution Hank Skinner legislature Texas

Recent Developments in Hank Skinner’s Request for DNA Testing

Hank Skinner faces execution on November 9, 2011 despite the fact that key pieces of DNA evidence that were collected from the crime scene in 1993 have never been tested.  In fact, the State of Texas has refused to conduct testing of this evidence for the past 10 years.  On Monday, October 24, 2011, his attorneys asked a federal district court to recommend his civil rights suit not be dismissed until the state court acts on his request for DNA testing.

The following is a statement from Rob Owen, counsel for Hank Skinner, in response to Monday’s hearing in federal district court regarding Mr. Skinner’s request for DNA testing:

“Based on the magistrate judge’s comments during the hearing today in federal district court, the focus of this controversy regarding DNA testing will now likely shift to the state courts. It will now be up to the state courts to decide if Mr. Skinner gets access to the DNA testing that we have been pursuing for more than 10 years in his case. The Texas legislature changed the law this year to eliminate disputes over assigning fault for why DNA testing was not previously performed. The State conceded in federal court today that the legislature intended that change in the law to reach Mr. Skinner. The State should stop wasting taxpayer money fighting the DNA testing in Mr. Skinner’s case. At a minimum they should drop their insistence on executing Mr. Skinner on November 9 so that the courts have adequate time to settle this issue.”

Rob Own, Attorney for Hank Skinner and visiting professor of law at Northwestern University in Chicago
October 24, 2011

According to AP coverage of the hearing that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, “The request for DNA testing is the third from Skinner but the first since a state law about evidence testing took effect Sept. 1. The new law allows DNA testing of evidence even if the offender chose not to seek testing before trial.” (“Death row inmate asks court to keep lawsuit alive,” October 24, 2011)

As reported in the Texas Tribune, “State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, who helped write the bill, has said that Skinner’s case is one the law was designed to affect.  Last month, Skinner’s lawyers filed a request in Gray County District Court for DNA testing under the new law. They are now awaiting a decision on that request.” (“Skinner Lawyer: DNA Decision Likely Up to State Court,” October 24, 2011)

Read more in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, from the Texas Tribune, and from the Amarillo Globe News.

Sign a petition urging state officials to agree to DNA testing that could resolve doubts about this case!

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