Texas court denies DNA test for death row inmate

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Six days before his execution date, a Texas death row inmate was dealt another blow Thursday as a court denied a request for DNA testing he claims would prove his innocence.

Hank Skinner was convicted of bludgeoning his girlfriend to death and fatally stabbing two of her children. Barring a reprieve, his execution has been set for November 9.

Skinner, 49, has not denied being present in the home at the time of the killings but he has insisted that DNA collected at the site could clear him as a suspect in the 1993 crimes.

Attorney Robert Owen told AFP his client was "deeply disappointed" at the US District Court's ruling but "hopeful" it would be overturned. He plans to ask an appeals court to reconsider the request.

Texas has refused to carry out the tests on evidence found at the home ever since a jury convicted him in 1995.

"Skinner is relying on the same 'new' evidence that this court rejected" previously, prosecutors said, adding that the convict "could not show a reasonable probability that further testing would exonerate him."

The US Supreme Court granted a stay of Skinner's execution less than an hour before he was due to be put to death last year. The high court sent the case back to a lower court to rule on Skinner's DNA testing request.

Skinner, who has spent 16 years on death row, has maintained his innocence since the beginning and has pleaded with authorities for over a decade to test DNA he says could prove that someone else killed the trio.

The state has long refused, citing a restrictive state DNA testing law. But lawmakers made changes to the law this year that lifted many of the restrictions.

Last week, a group of current and former elected officials, prosecutors and judges urged Texas Governor Rick Perry, a Republican presidential candidate, to delay the execution to allow for DNA testing.

Skinner has also enjoyed 10 years of support from Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess, who has rerun the investigation with his students as part of the school's "innocence project."

Protess said DNA tests on Skinner would clear the death row inmate if compared to DNA found on the victims.

Skinner is now married to death penalty activist Sandrine Ageorges, who is French.

© 2011 AFP

1 Comment To This Article

  • Dudley Sharp posted:

    on 6th November 2011, 15:51:43 - Reply

    Skinner confessed and the confession was deemed inadmissible, but is part of the appellate record.

    A "completely incapacitated" Skinner, somehow, traveled the 4 blocks from the murder scene, went to his ex girlfriends house, hid in her closet and he was covered in blood from the crime scene.

    Skinner's own blood spatter expert found that Skinner's "passed out" story was inconsistent with the blood being all over Skinner.

    Skinner's defense is that he was completely incapacitated the night of the murders, which is contradicted by his confession, by the blood spatter evidence and by his travels to his ex girlfriends house?

    Why did Skinner chose to walk the 4 blocks to his ex girlfriends house, instead of calling the police?

    Skinner refused additional DNA testing because he was implicated by the prior, multiple DNA tests, pre trial, that tied him to the crime scene and he didn't want more DNA to hurt his case.

    The only reason for such denial of additional DNA testing is that Skinner knew additional DNA evidence would harm him even more.

    Skinner, his defense counsel and other death penalty opponents are saying that the untested DNA will prove Skinner innocent, meaning that Skinner decided, pre trial, that it was better to face a death sentence than to face freedom, the only "logic" for Skinner's refusal of the additional DNA testing, when he "knew" it would prove his innocence. Absurd, of course.

    Could this be another anti death penalty fraud? Of course.