March 24, 2010

LKL TONIGHT! TX Inmate seeking DNA test hours before execution

Posted: 03:18 PM ET

**NOTE** Henry "Hank" Skinner's wife, Sandrine, will be our guest TONIGHT on LKL – tune in at 9pmet!

Texas state lawmakers are among those calling for a last-minute reprieve for a condemned inmate who is requesting DNA testing of evidence, even as he is set to die Wednesday night.

Henry "Hank" Skinner, 47, is scheduled to be executed by lethal injection at 6 p.m. (7 p.m. ET) for the New Year's Eve 1993 murder of his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two sons, Elwin Caler, 22, and Randy Busby, 20, in Pampa, Texas.

"Since his arrest in the early morning hours of January 1, 1994, Mr. Skinner has always and consistently maintained that he did not commit the crimes for which he was convicted," defense attorney Robert Owen wrote this month in a 30-page letter to Texas Gov. Rick Perry, seeking a 30-day reprieve of Skinner's execution.

Skinner's attorneys maintain that DNA testing of the evidence could establish his innocence and determine the real killer.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a ruling on a stay ofexecution in the case Wednesday. If the high court denies Skinner's request to review the case, the decision falls to Perry, according to David Protess, a Northwestern University professor and director of the university's Medill Innocence Project, which has investigated Skinner's case.

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Filed under: Justice • Larry King Live

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VickiM   March 24th, 2010 3:39 pm ET

As a many generation Texan, and resident of the state, I do not understand how the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the Texas Board of Pardons and Parole and the prosecutor do not want to allow DNA testing of the evidence in this case.

Clearly not all cases have access to DNA evidence, but when there is evidence, and a question of innocence, we owe it to the integrity of our criminal justice system to do all that we can to make sure that the right person is being convicted – particularly in a death penalty case.

Texas – 11 death row exonerations, and the executed with strong innocence claims – Cameron Todd Willingham, Ruben Cantu, Carlos De Luna... not to mention the many non-death penalty exonerations and the most recent Timothy Cole pardon. How can Governor Perry be so blinded by the death penalty and his political agenda that he cannot see reason in reviewing evidence?

Catherine Napfel   March 24th, 2010 4:02 pm ET

Do I support the death penalty?

Well, let me say it this way. If someone murdered a person or persons close to me and it was determined that there were witnesses, DNA and whatever other means proved that person did 100% commit the crime, I am totally for the death penalty.

On the other hand, if there is only circumstantial evidence, I do not support the dealth penalty in these cases. Life without the possibility of parole should be considered.

Lastly, how is it that Mr. Skinner has never been given DNA testing for these murders? He is begging for this test on his last day of life. This is not adding up OR he has not been given enough publicity for the crime. Hope justice is fair!

CHM   March 24th, 2010 4:37 pm ET

Why would anyone be executed without DNA testing of evidence when such testing is clearly an option. Pathetic.

Anonymous in Arizona   March 24th, 2010 5:09 pm ET

Test the DNA already. Good God what is this the stone age?

S. A. Smith   March 24th, 2010 5:30 pm ET

This message is for Govenor Rick Perry of Texas regarding the Hank Skinner case. Please grant the 30 day stay of execution and insist that the DNA be tested. I am part of a group that has a corporate stance against the death penalty.

Terri   March 24th, 2010 6:12 pm ET

"Lastly, how is it that Mr. Skinner has never been given DNA testing for these murders? He is begging for this test on his last day of life."

Catherine...he has begged for these tests ever since the conviction. He didn't wait until today.

Kevin H   March 24th, 2010 6:15 pm ET

As a Collin County, Texas resident, I have no doubt that the Governor will block eleventh hour efforts to test DNA in this case. He has traditionally upheld death penalty cases like all his predecessors. I am appalled by the propensity of Texas politics to continue to apply the death penalty despite the astounding number of cases overturned by DNA evidence. I would be fascinated to see cases from as long as a hundred years ago where the person was put to death be put through a rigorous re-examination. I feel confident that not only are many of the current death row inmates innocent, I have no doubt that many, many men have gone to their deaths who were innocent of the crimes for which they were convicted. The classic pro-death penalty response is: well, you win some, you lose some. A really cavalier attitude when you consider that when you put to death an innocent person the guilty person still went free. That means two travesties of justice – first the family who wanted "justice" by putting the "killer" to death essentially supported killing an innocent man AND that same family can be assured that an innocent man walked free and escaped justice. The argument for the death penalty in Texas is so hallow. The sad part is that the legislature here is so backward that no Texas university has yet completed a state sponsored study of the death penalty and its effectiveness. Not one single comprehensive research study as looked at death penalty cases in Texas from a historical perspective through the present to examine where or not the death penalty has accomplished anything whatsoever. These are the same sober people who want their government to account for every penny spent, the same ones who want a balanced budget, the same folks who want accountability in schools. DNA evidence should not only be applied in this case but in all cases where there is an opportunity to move justice forward. But then, this is Texas we're talking about...

Joe G. (Illinois)   March 24th, 2010 6:18 pm ET

First of all, we has bloggers have no preview of this case and so I don’t know what if anything can be expected by people like us. And I’m no lawyer either, but I got to say that it seems to me that there is an underlining unspoken pretense going on about DNA. In other words (DNA equals guilt.) And that to me if true is both illogical and barbaric crime solving at best. It’s like if police ever want to solve a crime in a rush that ought to simply go to the closest partner or relative, collect DNA and convict. Again, we don’t have the all story about this man said to be about executed. But then wouldn’t it me more damaging evidence if no DNA was found? According to what they tell us here, the people lived with him in the same house..!

jack   March 24th, 2010 9:12 pm ET

DNA should be examined and compared. Executions are barbaric, and set a bad example when the state commits homicide. I feel prisoners should be housed humanely. Violent criminals and those convicted of grand theft (whether white collar criminals or others) should be required to do some hard productive labor instead of being pampered. People in jail for no reason (victemless "criminals") should be released right away.

jack   March 24th, 2010 9:46 pm ET

Poor Josie, I hope she does not suffer a lot more. Hope she makes full recovery. A teenager who can do this to another human being over a text message certainly needs serious help, and confinement away from what is left of civilized society.

Connie   March 24th, 2010 10:01 pm ET

So glad to see that FINALLY, at least for now, at least for this case our Supreme Court Justices are doing their rightful job and staying this execution! May they require the DNA. May the Texas officials hold their heads in shame for putting so many through so much when even those FOR the death penalty in many circumstances in their state and elsewhere are puzzled and shaking their heads as to why DNA testing was blocked.

What's been the hurry?

Are there lessons to be learned?

What kind of legacy is Texas leaving our nation and our youth worldwide?

Thank You, major Newspapers in Texas for your stand! I understand that most if not all of you have come out agains the death penalty for many reasons...Among them, that there is not enough justice to continue such a penalty as practiced in Texas...

How I wish more newspapers worldwide would be so brave and have as much integrity!

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