Questions About Hank Skinner

The State of Texas plans to kill Hank Skinner on March 24th. No question about it. And, to the great shame of the Lone Star State, no questions will be asked about whether Mr. Skinner is to be executed for a crime he did not commit.

Skinner was convicted and sentenced to death for the December 31st, 1993 murder of his live-in partner, Twila Busby and her two sons in Pampa, Texas. The case has attracted significant attention as there are substantial doubts about whether Skinner is guilty.

Prosecutors promised to silence critics by submitted 14 peices of evidence for post-conviction testing. Much to the suprise of the Texas lawmen, the DNA tests did not provide more nails for Skinner's coffin. Instead, the tests raised more doubts about whether Texas plans on killing an innocent man.

One test involved a hair found clutched in Ms. Busby's hand at the time of her death. The prosecutors argued it was a hair from the killer. If so, then Skinner is not the killer: the DNA tests exclude Skinner as the person from whom the hair came. Other tests are reported either to exonerate Skinner or are said to be inconclusive.

Texas has apparently put a lid on the test results for many of the items tested. Highly probative results from broken fingernail clippings and the forensic rape kit are being withheld from public view: the state will not even discuss the results. The conclusion to be drawn from this is obvious: these test results must exonerate Skinner. Clearly, if they were further proof of his guilt, the state would have held a press conference by now to trumpet the results.

This camel-like behaviour on the part of Texas lawmen is shameful. When Northwestern University's Medill Innocence Project took an interest in the case and offered to fund further DNA testing of evidence, the Texans turned tail and ran. This is sheer intellectual and moral cowardice. Among the items yet to be tested in this case are a bloody knife and a bloody axe handle, a bloody dish towel, and a suspicious windbreaker contaminated with hairs, blood, and sweat.

This rush to judgment is hideous. Questions remain about Skinner's guilt. Rather than rushing to kill the man before these questions can be answered, Texas should should shut down the machinery of death and submit the Skinner case to transparent review.

Hat Tip: J B Allen, for The Skeptical Juror Project, www skepticaljuror com

Comments: (1)

  • Thank you Norm Pattis for covering this egregious ...
    Thank you Norm Pattis for covering this egregious case. I would just add to your 4th paragraph where you correctly stated that "Other tests are reported either to exonerate Skinner or are said to be inconclusive." That is, while some tests were in fact inconclusive in positively identifying a donor, they still unequivocally excluded Hank Skinner.
    Unless Gov. Rick Perry (who, incidentally, is actively campaigning for re-election) commutes the sentence even to life in prison, Hank Skinner will be executed in 15 days at the behest of District Attorney Lynn Switzer, whom Gov. Perry seated.
    Lynn Switzer is the current heavy who believes Skinner's likely innocence is insufficient reason to test copious available DNA within her sole custody, even though testing would be funded privately through David Protess' Medill Innocence Project.
    Posted on March 9, 2010 at 9:33 am by Skeptical Niece

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