Death Penalty and Execution News
MAY 24, 2010:
US Supreme Court Considers Texas Death Row Inmate's DNA Test Request----The Tarrant County case of Henry "Hank" Skinner could determine what access inmates have to DNA testing.
A Texas death row inmate, convicted of murder in Tarrant County, will get the chance to plead his case before the U.S. Supreme Court for a DNA test, that he claims will clear his name.
Henry "Hank" Skinner (is alleged to have*) killed his ex-girlfriend and 2 other people in 1993. He did not receive a genetic test at his trial, but he wants one now. The high court agreed to hear the case to decide whether inmates may use a federal civil rights law to do DNA testing.
"I really believe that technology should be used in a way to help people people who claim they are innocent," death penalty opponent, Rick Halperin, said.
The SMU professor says the case could open the door for many more inmates to press for the expensive testing.
"It raises questions about America's responsibility to people who are incarcerated and have claims that this will vindicate those claims."
The test can be life or death. Former death row inmate, Kerry Cook, spent 20 years on death row and came within 11 days of being executed before a DNA test exonerated him. A test also showed, Michael Blair was not guilty of killing a Plano girl, after he spent nine years on death row.
But, death row killer Ricky McGinn was executed after receiving two DNA tests that confirmed he killed his stepdaughter. Some fear inmates, like McGinn, may abuse the test. But, experts say Texas law doesn't allow for much leeway.
"I think many inmates recognize that in most cases DNA will not make a difference," said Mike Ware, Chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit at the Dallas County District Attorney's office.
Ware has seen a record number of DNA exonerations in Dallas County. He sees no downside to expanded testing.
"Our philosophy in most cases is to agree to the test. What is the worst that can happen? We will either confirm guilt, exonerate someone or maybe identify more perpetrators through DNA."
* the parenthesis was added in this posting as such claim deemed out of context with rest of article
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE----Supreme Court To Hear Case Of Texas Death Row Prisoner Seeking DNA Testing; DNA Evidence Must Be Fully Considered To Avoid Executing Innocent People, Says ACLU
The U.S. Supreme Court today agreed to decide whether a Texas death row prisoner should be allowed to have evidence in his case undergo DNA testing which could establish his innocence. Henry W. "Hank" Skinner, convicted of 3 1993 murders, believes that he is entitled to DNA testing under a federal civil rights law.
Among the pieces of evidence that Skinner would like tested are blood taken from the murder weapons, skin taken from under the fingernails of one of the victims as well as a rape test from her that includes semen, and hair and blood found at the scene of the crime. A number of investigations into the crimes and the alleged involvement of Skinner, who has maintained his innocence, have sharply called into question his guilt.
DNA evidence has led to nearly 140 exonerations of death row prisoners during the past 3 decades.
The following can be attributed to John Holdridge, Director of the ACLU Capital Punishment Project:
"It is unconscionable, and at odds with our shared American values of fairness, due process and justice, that the state of Texas would seek to execute a man when the evidence in his case has not been exhaustively tested. The sheer number of death row exonerations resulting from DNA testing shows that our death penalty system is fraught with error and systemic injustices. We should do anything and everything in our power, including conducting DNA testing of evidence, to ensure that we don't ever execute innocent people."
(source: ACLU Press Release----The ACLU conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights)