Mounting evidence, including DNA tests the State had fought for more than a decade, strongly supports his claim of innocence. Yet Skinner came within 45 minutes of execution in 2010 and almost died three times this year due to an often-fatal illness.
Hank Skinner is in the final round of a fight against two heavyweights. One is the Texas lawmen who want him executed. The other is an often-fatal ailment that saps his strength and leaves him in constant pain. The odds makers give him little chance. Death, after all, is undefeated.
Since Oct. 9, 2001, when Henry "Hank" Skinner's lawyers filed their first motion for DNA testing, Texas lawmen have stood in the way, saying Skinner is guilty and his request is simply a stalling tactic. Turns out the lawmen were stalling.
If the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals grants the motion for DNA testing, a little blood and sweat on a jacket may be the difference between life and death for Hank Skinner. Could anything be less frivolous?
Hank Skinner has an execution date set for November 9, 2011. But he has cases pending in federal and state courts to compel the State of Texas to conduct DNA tests on all of the untested evidence in his case.
I do not know if Mr. Skinner is innocent or guilty -- but I do know firsthand the critical importance of DNA testing. Nearly twenty years ago, I became the first person in the U.S. exonerated from death row when post-conviction DNA testing proved my innocence.
The Supreme Court has ruled in the case of Hank Skinner that he has the right to pursue DNA testing under federal civil rights laws. This case was a no-brainer to begin with, why did it go all the way to the Supreme Court?