A group of current and former lawmakers, judges and lawyers is calling on Texas Gov. Rick Perry to grant DNA testing for a convicted murderer with an execution less than two weeks away. The letter, also sent to Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott and Gray County District Attorney Lynn Switzer, argues that the state should "ensure certainty" before carrying out the execution. A Perry spokesperson said that the governor wouldn't comment on the case and that it is a matter for the courts.
Henry Skinner, 49, has been convicted of the 1993 deaths of his girlfriend and her two sons in Pampa, Texas. Skinner, according to the Houston Chronicle, has said that he was too intoxicated with alcohol and codeine to have committed the crime. The Chronicle adds that multiple items from the crime scene have not been tested.
He came within one hour of execution in March 2010 before the U.S. Supreme Court ordered a stay.
The Huffington Post's Jason Linkins reported on Perry's role in the 2004 execution of Cameron Todd Willingham, who was convicted in 1992 of the murder of his three young children in what was deemed to be arson. Yet, subsequent evidence cast doubt on the forensic science behind the burn pattern. Perry scuttled the Texas Forensic Science Commission, which was looking into the Willingham case, in 2009 by firing three members.
Perry has overseen at least 236 executions, more than any governor in modern history. When asked in a September Republican presidential debate whether he ever lost any sleep over the possibility that someone innocent was executed he said, "No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all."
Skinner's execution is set for Nov. 9.
HuffPost's Jason Linkins reported on what Perry had to say when pressed on the death penalty during a Republican presidential debate last month:
[NBC's Brian] Williams simply asked in general if Perry had ever struggled with the idea that someone who was killed via capital punishment was innocent. The weak sauce allowed Perry to wriggle off the hook: "No, sir. I've never struggled with that at all. The state of Texas has a very thoughtful, a very clear process in place of which -- when someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that's required.
The Lone Star State Republican said, "But in the state of Texas, if you come into our state and you kill one of our children, you kill a police officer, you're involved with another crime and you kill one of our citizens, you will face the ultimate justice in the state of Texas, and that is, you will be executed."