Hank Skinner, who resides on death row in Texas, won a case at the U.S. Supreme Court recently. He got the right to sue, in federal court, for access to DNA evidence he says would exonerate him. Officials in Gray County, Texas, are in possession of the evidence in question (including vaginal swabs, fingernail scrapings, hairs, and two bloody knives), but have refused to either test it or hand it over for testing.
So, a civil case is now pending in the Northern District of Texas, Amarillo Division. But that hasn’t stopped Texas from going ahead and setting an execution date anyway. Skinner is now scheduled to die on November 9. His lawyers believe the date has been set as “an effort to put pressure on the federal court to act quickly.”
Why not just let the untested evidence be examined?
Perhaps for the same reason the Texas Attorney General recently ruled that the Texas Forensic Science Commission can’t look at any evidence collected before September 2005. The Commission had been investigating the bogus fire science used to facilitate the execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, which took place in 2004.
Apparently, the best way to avoid errors or mistakes (or worse) in Texas justice is to not look for them.