September 6, 2011
(Gray County, Texas) Attorneys for Hank Skinner filed a motion today in
state district court in Gray County, Texas, to compel DNA testing of
key pieces of evidence that have never been tested in his case. The
motion is filed under a new law, SB 122, which took effect on September
1, 2011. SB 122 intends to ensure that procedural barriers do not
prevent prisoners from testing biological evidence that was not
previously tested or could be subjected to newer testing. Mr. Skinner’s
attorneys also asked the court to withdraw Mr. Skinner’s scheduled
November 9 execution date to allow time for the DNA testing (the motions
were mailed to the court on Friday).
“The new law was intended to make advanced DNA testing available in all
cases where it can aid the truth-seeking process, and Skinner's case
falls squarely within that category,” said Sen. Rodney Ellis, co-sponsor
of SB 122 which passed the Texas Legislature with overwhelming
bipartisan support in May 2011.
The State of Texas, which for more than a decade has actively resisted
Mr. Skinner’s efforts to obtain DNA testing of the evidence in his case,
came within an hour of putting him to death in March 2010 before the
U.S. Supreme Court stepped in to stop the execution. The Court
eventually agreed to hear Mr. Skinner’s case, and in March 2011 ruled
that Mr. Skinner was entitled to seek access to the evidence for DNA
testing by suing the Gray County District Attorney under a federal civil
rights law. The case returned to the federal district court in
Amarillo, Texas, where a decision is pending.
“Texas is wrong to seek Hank Skinner’s execution without allowing for
DNA testing. The State should be leading the search for truth, instead
of continuing to waste taxpayer dollars on its eleven-year-long campaign
to block testing of critically important scientific evidence,” said Rob
Owen, an attorney for Mr. Skinner.
The evidence that Mr. Skinner seeks to test, and which has never been
tested, includes: a man’s windbreaker found next to the victim’s body,
which had blood splatter, perspiration stains and human hairs on it, and
did not belong to Mr. Skinner; two knives, at least one of which was a
likely murder weapon; swabs from a rape-kit; and clothing and towels
found at the crime scene. The State’s refusal to test the evidence for
DNA is particularly troubling because there is another suspect who
stalked the victim, had a violent criminal history, and behaved
suspiciously immediately after the crime.
There is a powerful public consensus that DNA evidence should be tested
when it is available. More than 8 in 10 Americans believe DNA evidence
is either completely or very reliable. In Texas, 85 percent of the
people believe that prisoners should have access to DNA testing if it
may prove their innocence.
“Testing the evidence will serve the public interest by providing
certainty in this case,” said Nina Morrison, staff attorney at the
Innocence Project. “It’s just common sense to test the DNA evidence."
To speak with Mr. Skinner’s attorneys and other experts, or for more information, please contact: Laura Burstein, 202-626-6868 firstname.lastname@example.org.