Huffpost Politics
The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

Judge H. Lee Sarokin Headshot

Texas and Gov. Perry Apparently Indifferent to the Execution of a Possibly Innocent Man

Posted: Updated:

The State of Texas has taken the phrase: "Better that 100 (or 10) men go free than one innocent person be convicted" and turned it on its head to: "Better one innocent man be executed rather than spend 100 minutes conducting tests to prove his innocence". Hank Skinner is scheduled for execution on March 24 -- 4 days from now.

Through the efforts of the Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University, the following information has been developed, presented to the Texas courts and rejected: The state's star witness recanted her testimony. Toxicology tests indicated that Skinner lacked the strength, balance and agility to commit the triple homicides for which he was sentenced to death. Those findings were recently reconfirmed by a leading toxicology expert. The alleged perpetrator, Robert Donnell was identified by name and a valid motive was provided. Evidence was presented of his later activities suggestive of destroying or covering up evidence.

Prosecutors and the courts have denied DNA tests on 2 bloodstained knives, a rape kit, and hair found in the female victim's hand and skin found under her nails and a windbreaker similar to one worn by another suspect. A respected laboratory has offered to conduct the DNA testing pro bono and the Medill Project also offered to pay the expenses. Mr. Skinner has maintained his innocence throughout.

As I write this, I have no idea whether or not Mr. Skinner is guilty or not of these horrendous crimes. What I cannot fathom is the prosecution and the Texas' courts unfailing efforts to resist a search for the truth. They and now Gov. Perry have within their power the ability to verify or rebut the conviction. Their refusal runs the risk that an innocent man may be executed (possibly not the first in Texas); their acquiescence imposes only a slight delay in that irretrievable event. Faced with those two options, how can there be any answer but to stay the execution and conduct the tests!

Note: I have already written on this matter here.