Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Help STOP Execution of Hank Skinner (scheduled for Feb. 24!)

Plz also note below also all the JOURNEY folk who plan to be at the Alternative Spring Break in Texas!


HELP STOP IT!

Please scroll down to take action to help stop the execution of Hank Skinner, scheduled for February 24, 2010 in Texas. Read the article below for more information on Hank's case. Don't let Hank become the next Todd Willingham, an innocent person executed in Texas. Suggested ACTION doesn't take long at all-GO
here

Also, take a moment to vote for the Abolish the Death Penalty as an Idea for Change in America at Change.org. (You will have to register at Change.org to vote.)
here

If the idea becomes one of the top ten, Change.org will host an event in Washington, DC, where each of the 10 ideas will be presented to representatives of the media, the nonprofit community, and to relevant officials in the Obama Administration. After the announcement, Change.org will mobilize the full resources of their staff, their 1 million community members, and their extended network of bloggers to support a series of grassroots campaigns to turn each idea into reality.

Finally, if you want to spend four days learning about the death penalty and training to take action, register for the Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break, March 15-19, 2010 in Austin, Texas. It is designed for high school and college students, but all the workshops and events are open to the public of all ages. We have arranged many interesting speakers, including four innocent, exonerated former death row prisoners, Curtis McCarty, Ron Keine, Shujaa Graham and Perry Cobb, as well as the national director of Sister Helen Prejean's Dead Man Walking School Theatre Project, Bill Pelke of Journey of Hope, Susannah Sheffer of Murder Victims' Families for Human Rights and Brian Evans from the Washington D.C. office of Amnesty International.

If anyone is interested, you can register at the website GO HERE

Actions for Hank Skinner:

here (Sign and send this online petition/email to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.)

Write, call, fax or email your own letter to the Board of Pardons and Paroles and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Urge them to stay the execution to allow testing of DNA. In the subject line of your emails or in any letters to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, write "Attention Case of Hank Skinner #999143".

Hank Skinner is scheduled to be executed in Texas on February 24 for three murders he maintains he didn't commit. Several key pieces of biological evidence from the crime scene have not been tested. DNA testing could prove Skinner's innocence or confirm his guilt, but prosecutors are opposing Skinner's appeals and seeking to execute him. There are several pieces of probative biological evidence from the crime scene that haven't been tested. Among this untested evidence are hairs from one victim's hand, a rape kit, fingernail clippings and a windbreaker that could have been worn by an alternate suspect. It is crucial that this testing be conducted before Texas carries out a sentence it can't reverse.

DNA testing can prove the truth. It is not a delay tactic or a diversion -- it has the potential to confirm Skinner's guilt or prove him innocent and you would be making a grave mistake to allow Skinner to executed without first conducting DNA tests.

Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12428
Austin, Texas 78711-2428
Fax: 512-463-1849
Main number: 512-463-2000

Clemency Section
Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles
8610 Shoal Creek Blvd.
Austin, TX 78757-6814
Fax (512) 467-0945
bpp-pio@tdcj.state.tx.us


CLOCK TICKS

Will Texas Soon Execute Another Innocent Man? Our Reporting Challenges Verdict As Clock Ticks

THE LATEST: Condemned Man's Lawyers Appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court

By David Protess

February 12, 2010

Texas Gov. Rick Perry is under fire for allegedly obstructing an investigation into the wrongful execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was put to death in 2004 -- despite forensic tests proving he did not murder his three young children.

Four years earlier, Gary Graham was carried to Texas’ death chamber defiantly proclaiming his innocence in the face of new evidence that even the murder victim’s widow called “reasonable doubt.”

Investigative stories have revealed that Ruben Cantu in 1989 and Carlos DeLuna in 1993 likely suffered the same unjust fate at the hands of Texas executioners.

Now the clock is ticking on another Texas death row inmate who has steadfastly maintained his innocence – with credible evidence to support his claim. The condemned man is Henry Watkins “Hank” Skinner, and much of that evidence was unearthed by the Medill Innocence Project and reported in the January 28 and 29 editions of the Texas Tribune, "Case Open" and "Case Open: The Investigation". Yet, Skinner faces death by lethal injection on February 24, less than two weeks from now.

Texas continues to lead the nation in executions. But will the state earn the dubious distinction of executing five innocents in two decades? Hank Skinner’s fate lies in the hands of the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles, Gov. Perry and the U.S. Supreme Court.

Here is a synopsis of the case, spotlighting the evidence developed by Medill student-journalists who traveled to Texas’ death row and to the crime scene in search of the truth. For a more detailed account, read my testimony to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, and today's appeal by Skinner's lawyers to the Supreme Court.

I will continue to report about the Skinner case on this site until it reaches finality.

Hank Skinner, January 20, 2010
Caleb Bryant Miller, The Texas Tribune

Hank Skinner, age 47, was convicted of bludgeoning to death his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and fatally stabbing her two adult sons in their Pampa, Texas home on New Year's Eve of 1993. Skinner was convicted of the crimes in 1994 and sentenced to death in 1995. He is scheduled to be executed on February 24.

The state's case against Skinner was entirely circumstantial. He has consistently professed his innocence, there was no physical evidence linking him to the murder weapons and no eyewitness or apparent motive for the crime. Skinner indisputably was in the home at the time of the murders, but claims he had passed out from mixing large quantities of alcohol and codeine. When he awoke, he stumbled to a neighbor’s residence to report the murders, according to Skinner.

But the neighbor, Andrea Reed, testified that Skinner made incriminating statements about the crime and ordered her not to call the police. That was enough for the jury to find him guilty, and, although Skinner had no history of violence that would remotely explain the horrific murders (his worst offense was a conviction for assault), he was sentenced to death.

Our investigation

The Medill Innocence Project first became involved in the case in the fall of 1999 when a reporter at the Associated Press in Houston raised questions about Skinner’s guilt. Eight investigative reporting students made two trips to the Panhandle town in 1999-2000 to interview sources and plow through documents. They returned with grave reservations about whether justice had been done.

For one thing, Andrea Reed, the state’s star witness, recanted her trial testimony in an audio-taped interview. Reed told the student-journalists that she had been intimidated by the authorities into concocting a false story against Skinner. “I did not then and do not now feel like he was physically capable of hurting anybody,” Reed said.

For another, toxicology tests on Skinner's blood and statements by experts revealed he would have been nearly comatose on the night of the crimes, certainly lacking the strength, balance and agility to commit the triple homicide. This finding is consistent with Reed’s observation of Skinner when he entered her home after the crime: “He was falling into the walls and stuff. He was staggering, falling into stuff,” she said in the taped interview.

Other residents of Pampa told the student-journalists in videotaped interviews that the more likely perpetrator was Robert Donnell, Twila's uncle. Donnell had been “hitting on” his niece at a New Year’s Eve party shortly before the slayings. Rebuffing his advances, she left the party frightened, her uncle following behind, according to the witnesses. (A close friend of Twila’s said she confided to being raped by her uncle in the past.)

The day after the crime, another witness claimed to have seen Donnell scrubbing the interior of his pick-up truck, removing the rubber floorboards and replacing the carpeting. Perhaps most telling, a windbreaker just like the one the uncle often wore was found at the scene – directly next to his niece’s body. The jacket was covered with human hairs and sweat.

Yet evidence from the windbreaker has never been scientifically tested. Moreover, prosecutors have steadfastly opposed DNA tests on two blood-stained knives, skin cells found underneath Twila’s fingernails, vaginal swabs and hairs removed from her hand – even though forensic tests on one of the hairs proved it did not come from Skinner. (The physical evidence remains sealed, but the courts have acceded to prosecutors’ demands not to conduct the tests.) In a death row interview with the student-journalists, Skinner said he was innocent and welcomed new tests on the old evidence.

"They have no right to kill me because I'm innocent, innocent, innocent."
Hank Skinner to the Texas Tribune, January 28, 2010.

Another troubling aspect of the case is the background of Skinner's trial lawyer, Harold Lee Comer. Formerly the District Attorney of Gray County, Comer had prosecuted Skinner for two offenses, theft and assault. After resigning from office and pleading guilty in a drug scandal, Comer was appointed at taxpayer's expense to represent Skinner at his capital murder trial -- without the required hearing to determine whether he had a conflict-of-interest.

The trial judge, a personal friend of Comer's, paid him roughly the same amount to represent Skinner as the former DA owed to the IRS. Comer failed to request DNA testing, or present compelling evidence about the alternative suspect. And, at the sentencing hearing, he failed to object to using Skinner's prior convictions -- which he had prosecuted -- to justify the death penalty.

When the U.S. Supreme Court rejected the claim that Skinner had been ineffectively represented by Comer, a Texas court set his execution date. In light of the cases of Cameron Todd Willingham, Gary Graham, Ruben Cantu and Carlos DeLuna, the specter of wrongful executions now hangs over Texas' system of capital punishment.

Will Texas next put to death a man who has steadfastly professed his innocence and whose lawyer was his legal adversary -- without even conducting DNA tests to be sure the right man will be punished for the crime?

Not much time will tell.

ACT NOW PLEASE:

Register Now for the 2010 Anti-Death Penalty Alternative Spring Break March 15-19

here

3 comments:

Connie L. Nash said...

RELATED to the above plea for action...JUST in from NCADP:

Today, February 17, marks the sixth anniversary of Cameron Todd Willingham's wrongful execution. We continue to work daily to raise awareness of the serious risk of innocent people being convicted and put to death. As we've noted to you repeatedly, significant questions surround the circumstances of the fire that led to the deaths of Willingham's young daughters in 1991, the deaths for which Willingham was executed. Nine fire experts - including one hired by the Texas Forensic Science Commission - have examined the case since the time of conviction, and determined the evidence did not support a finding of arson.

Despite ongoing doubts about the forensic evidence used to obtain Willingham's conviction, the State of Texas is poised to carry out another execution in a case for which many unresolved questions remain. Henry "Hank" Skinner is scheduled to be put to death a week from today, even though 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.

So on this anniversary, we urge you to join us in Shouting from the Rooftops to call attention to the cases of Cameron Todd Willingham and Hank Skinner by taking the following actions:

- If you live in a state that has the death penalty, call and write your own state legislators to express concern about the risk of error in death penalty cases and urge them to work to repeal the death penalty.

- Fax and/or call the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles and Governor Rick Perry to urge clemency for Hank Skinner. Today is the deadline for the Board to receive letters. Please see the Texas Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty for background information, talking points and contact information for the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles. You can sign an online letter at www.change.org.

- Write a letter to the editor to your local newspaper expressing concerns about the death penalty's irreversible risk of error and calling for its repeal.

- If you see blogs or news stories about these cases while you're online this week, post comments regarding Willingham and/or Skinner.

- Make a special contribution to honor the memory of Cameron Todd Willingham and his daughters and to help NCADP continue this important work.

Thank you for taking action on this sad anniversary.
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Please join NCADP on Facebook or LinkedIn, follow us on Twitter, read more on our website, blog, or at the Huffington Post, contribute online, and support out Shouting from the Rooftops campaign.

Connie L. Nash said...

There has been a new response posted to the following discussion on Change.org:
Idea for Change in America: Abolish the Death Penalty Discussion...a recent comment:

It's great to see that there are kids against the death penalty.

I do not want my tax dollars to kill people in my name. No matter how heinous the crime, I do not want to descend to the level of the perpetrator.

There is another matter to consider: proportionality. Many times a very heinous crime does not result in the death sentence (the Unibomber) but on the other hand a guy who wasn't even at the scene will be executed (Dennis Skillicorn, 2009, state of Missouri)

No consideration is made for the perpetrators rehabilitation in prison. For example, Karla Fay Tucker in Texas was executed even though she was not the same person as she was when she was originally incarcerated. What is to be gained by killing someone who has become a model prisoner?

Also, it is much more likely for prosecutors to seek the death penalty if the prosecutor is up for election and wants to look "tough on crime." The same goes for any politician seeking election.

If you kill a caucasian your chances of receiving the death sentence are much greater than if you kill a black person. Are black persons lives less valuable? This fact shows racism.

Death row inmates are rarely killers of other inmates statistically. Other prisoners kill other inmates and then become death row inmates. So the prison isn't safer because of executing death row inmates.

Society is made safer by incarcerating murderers. The alternative to death penalty could be Life Without Parole. That is a very harsh sentence, indeed.

posted by elaine goodwin

Paste and search/click the link below to view this discussion.
http://www.change.org/ideas/view/abolish_the_death_penalty

Connie L. Nash said...

Although there's been a very temporary stay of execution, we NEED to keep these petitions coming in and not be blindsided or fooled into thinking that Hank is safe!!!