Death Penalty

Hank Skinner Scheduled for Execution Tomorrow

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As noted earlier today, tonight I'll be moderating a panel that will discuss the case of Cameron Todd Willingham, the Texas man executed in 2006 who critics say was innocent.

Coincidentally, unless the U.S. Supreme Court or Texas Gov. Rick Perry intervene, Texas will execute Henry "Hank" Skinner tomorrow. The Medill Innocence Project has raised serious questions about Skinner's guilt. In Skinner's case, there is untested crime scene DNA evidence that could either confirm his guilt, strongly suggest his innocence, or call his guilt enough into doubt to merit halting his execution. For eight years, prosecutors have refused to allow the evidence to be tested, and have to this point been backed by both Texas and federal appeals courts.

I wrote about Skinner's case last month.

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  1. What does the relevant law say on this matter?

    1. The attorney was just playing along with the good ol boys. Afterall, they did not pursue the missing money from the DA’s account when he was DA. This could have gotten him disbared. Did he just allow them a guilty verdict on Skinner as payback for the favor they did for him?

  2. ce, or call his guilt enough into doubt to merit halting his execution. For eight years, prosecutors have refused to allow the evidence to be tested

    You would think as a matter of conscience that they would be the first in line of those who would want to know the results of such a test.

  3. This is why no government should ever be considered capable of handling the responsibility of execution.

    1. This is why no government should ever be considered capable of handling the responsibility of execution.

      Or war or health care, for that matter

  4. Not 8 years, 15 years of battling for privately funded DNA testing has been denied by the courts…

  5. A laboratory in Arizona last week offered to test the DNA evidence for free if Texas Gov. Rick Perry grants Mr. Skinner a 30-day reprieve. Perry has so far refused. Governor’s often support the prosecution for political reasons. But, how do they justify that to God, or to their children to whom they say life is sacred?

    1. it is interesting that most people claim to believe in god, but then check their faith at the door when it serves them. perry needs to ask himself what god would think of taking a life while evidence sits on the shelf.

    2. Considering Perry has already murdered an innocent man and tried covering it up, this next time won’t really matter much to him.

  6. Relevant law? Check Hererra vs. Collins. Innocence means nothing. Read for yourself. Hank Skinner is about to become instrumental in the fight of those “critics” who will eventually prove that he is innocent…like Todd Willingham.
    Hank has fought much longer than 8 years; his trial defense attorney was his former prosecuting attorney. Come on people!!!!! This is satisfactory justice for American’s?

    Exclude the death penalty from your politics and join the “20th” Century as you recently have with Universal Health Care.

    1. We’d rather not have shitty economies, thanks. Go back to your poor speech haven.

  7. As long as he had a fair trial, it is not unconstitutional to execute an innocent person. That being said I would think the persecutors would want to be sure as a matter of conscience and see the evidence.

    1. James,

      If an innocent man is executed, how can the trial be considered fair? How could twelve individuals declare a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if the person was in fact innocent?

      Along the right hand side of my blog, I list the names of 373 people exonerated from either death row or life behind bars. That list is far from complete.

      Are you telling me that each of those trials was fair?

      Are you telling me our appeals system catches even a small fraction of those wrongfully convicted by juries?

      Or are you telling me it’s simply easier to look away?

      1. How could twelve individuals declare a person guilty beyond a reasonable doubt if the person was in fact innocent?

        The jury did not have all the facts.

        1. Exactly Michael.

          You realize though, that in the appeals process the burden of proof moves off the state and on to the defendant. It’s a burden that is nearly impossible to meet, since facts (as in evidence) are typically excluded from judicial review.

          The court system from beginning to end explicity declares the jury to be the judge of the facts. Period. Appeals are typically based on the process, not on the facts.

          And if the defense attorney fails to bring up important facts, those facts are also automatically excluded from judicial review, as in the case of the probative DNA evidence untested in the Hank Skinner case.

          I’ve been in the jury box for four criminal trials. Trust me when I tell you that you don’t want to be sitting at the defense table, even if you are innocent.

          1. And if the defense attorney fails to bring up important facts, those facts are also automatically excluded from judicial review, as in the case of the probative DNA evidence untested in the Hank Skinner case.

            Did the attorney have an opportunity to bring up the DNA evidence in trial?

            1. Yes, and according to Radley’s last article on this, Skinner requested that his attorney request the test. He did this in writing, but his lawyer did not do it because he thought it prove Skinner’s guilt. Oh, Skinner’s appointed attorney was a former prosecutor who had prosecuted Skinner for unrelated crimes in the past.

              1. He did this in writing, but his lawyer did not do it because he thought it prove Skinner’s guilt. O

                I wonder why the lawyer would think the DNA test would prove Skinner’s guilt. Of course, the lawyer is forbidden by attorney-client privilege from giving us this reason.

                This might be the reason that Skinner is not legally entitled to another DNA test.

                1. Michael,

                  You know nothing of this case, obviously. Hank’s lawyer, Harold Comer, was appointed by the Judge, Harold’s buddy and political ally.

                  Comer had previously been the DA, and had actually prosecuted Hank Skinner for two crimes.

                  Comer had lost his job as DA because he embezzelled drug seizure funds, and because of his drug habit. The IRA hit Comer up for $80,000 and the judge awarded Comer $76,000 as payment for his crappy defense of the man he previously tried to put in jail.

                  The amount paid to Comer was the highest ever paid to a court appointed attorney, more than twice what the top-notch attorneys would have charged for that case.

                  Comer filed his pre-trial motions by photocopying motions from a book and then signing them himself. For that he charged Texas $4,500.

                  Comer couldn’t mount a defense for Hank in the penalty phase when Texas brought up Skinner’s past convictions, because Comer was the one who prosecuted him.

                  Comer hired as a private detective someone he had fired for incompetence when he was DA. Students from the Medill Innocence project uncovered far more evidence after the trial than Comer and his gang did before the trial.

                  Do I need to go on about this man? Do you still insist that Comer’s behavior is somehow proof of Hank Skinner’s guilt?

                  You are demonstating the point I made originally about about people who are too lazy or too scared to look, about how easy it is to just look the other way.

                  1. Do I need to go on about this man? Do you still insist that Comer’s behavior is somehow proof of Hank Skinner’s guilt?

                    You seem to be implying that Comer was guilty of legal malpractice.

  8. Relevant law? Check Hererra vs. Collins. Innocence means nothing. Read for yourself

    There was no constitutional violation. The question before the Supreme Court was a question of constitutionality, not guilt or innocence.

    Exclude the death penalty from your politics and join the “20th” Century as you recently have with Universal Health Care.

    Why not disarm the police while we are at it?

    1. Why not disarm the police while we are at it?

      I’m interested in your ideas, and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

  9. Who’s going to break him out?

  10. Would the death of Hank Skinner be any more tragic than the death of Jonathan Ayers?

    1. you ask stupid bullshit questions that no one cares to answer

  11. Why not disarm the police while we are at it?

    Brilliant argument……

    Ahh yes, we should disarm police because Texas is executing another innocent person and bankrupting citizens due to health issues. Yes, let’s continue to keep inane “constitutional” laws on the books. Too bad that you had to give up your slave, Ejercito.(That was constitutional at one time too….maybe you still have your slave, though because you seem to agree with and want to preserve archaic laws).
    You sure have changed my mind on an innocence issue….

    Relevant law….morals, ethics…who cares!

    An innocent man is about to be executed…. you have explained to us that it doesn’t bother you, right or wrong, as long as it is in your constitution …..

    The people who support this execution have no conscience, James. That is evidenced by Ejercito’s comment.

    1. Ahh yes, we should disarm police because Texas is executing another innocent person and bankrupting citizens due to health issues.

      No, because of what happened to Jonathan Ayers and Pedro Navarro-Oregon.

      Yes, let’s continue to keep inane “constitutional” laws on the books.

      Who wrote anything about not changing the law?

      An innocent man is about to be executed…. you have explained to us that it doesn’t bother you, right or wrong, as long as it is in your constitution …..

      No more so than the shooting deaths of Jonathan Ayers and Pedro Navarro-Oregon bother me.

  12. A persons guilt or innocence should never be part of anyone’s political agenda. If the majority of Texans were against the death penalty, then this would not be happening. Plain and simple.The death penalty is barbaric and no politician should have any say whatsoever. Come on America, join the 21st Century and stop this form of punishment. Thank God I live in Australia and we do not have the death penalty. Our murder rates are nothing like yours, so that goes to prove something.

    1. The death penalty is barbaric and no politician should have any say whatsoever.

      So what?

      Come on America, join the 21st Century and stop this form of punishment.

      Stop the death penalty?

      Why would we want to degenerate by appeasing murderers?

      Thank God I live in Australia and we do not have the death penalty.

      God was a fan of executing people for blasphemy.

      Our murder rates are nothing like yours, so that goes to prove something.

      About as much as Mexico’s murder rate does.

    2. There’s nothing worth killing someone over in Australia.

  13. Jonathan Ayers?

    Apples and oranges, Ejercito.
    Another brilliant argument saying what exactly….other than you have no idea about Hank Skinner’s case.
    Skinner should be evaluated on his own merits…..

    1. Jonathan Ayers?

      Apples and oranges, Ejercito.

      True.

      Nobody claims that Ayers killed anyone.

  14. Nellie,
    We have not had the death penalty in Canada in more than 30 years and thus it has proved totally unnecessary. Revenge and justice are totally different issues and should never be mixed with politics…totally agreed. Our murder rates are nothing like in the states either ….

  15. If you are going to bring God into this realize that Moses was a murderer as was Cane, Jonah etc. …whom He banished but did not execute and Hank is innocent of this crime.
    As Jesus said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
    Are you blaspheming God? Not sure where you’re going with this.
    Again…..your point Ejercito????

    You seem to be losing us with idiotic BS.
    I never said that Ayers killed anyone….. I said and maintain that Skinner should be evaluated on his own merits and his case is not Ayers’ case.
    …….Your point Ejercito?

    Mexico and Australia are nowhere near comparison. Your point Ejercito??? I suggest don’t try to include Canada in your BS, merit-less argument…. that would just make you appear even more ignorant of the facts.

    Perhaps you could get back to the point of the issue ….Skinner is innocent and there is ample evidence supporting that but your inane constitution is trying to create a roadblock and you seem to support that. You obviously support an innocent person being killed. Hope you or your family are not the next on the chopping block. I might find it difficult to support you.

    You know what? There is no point in having discussions with ill equipped people so why don’t we pick this up after Skinner has had a fair shake and is subsequently found to be factually innocent and you can tell me all the reasons why you think he should still be on death row.

    I’m sure your arguments will be most entertaining.

  16. If you are going to bring God into this realize that Moses was a murderer as was Cane, Jonah etc. …whom He banished but did not execute and Hank is innocent of this crime.
    As Jesus said, “let he who is without sin cast the first stone”.
    Are you blaspheming God? Not sure where you’re going with this.
    Again…..your point Ejercito????

    Nellie brought God into this.

    …whom He banished but did not execute and Hank is innocent of this crime.

    How do you know this?

    Skinner is innocent and there is ample evidence supporting that but your inane constitution is trying to create a roadblock and you seem to support that.

    What roadblock is created by the United States Constitution?

    And what evidence suggests that Hank Skinner is innocent?

    I never said that Ayers killed anyone….. I said and maintain that Skinner should be evaluated on his own merits and his case is not Ayers’ case.
    …….Your point Ejercito?

    You argued for the abolition of the death penalty because of the Skinner case.

    I pointed out that if we should abolish the death penalty because an innocent person might be executed, then we should disarm the police because they have killed innocent people like Jonathan Ayers and Pedro Navarro-Oregon.

    1. Michael,

      The discussion here is not about abolishing the death penalty. Nor is about disarming the police.

      I’m undecided on the issue of executing those who are guilty of capital crimes. On the other hand, I’m unabashedly opposed to executing innocent people.

      I’ll grant you the benefit of the doubt and assume you too believe it would be wrong to execute an innocent person. The issue then becomes should the State be required to test probative DNA evidence before executing someone.

      I say yes. Texas says no. Texas not only refuses to test it, they fight in court for 16 years to keep anyone else from testing it.

      I’ll up the ante at bit. The bloody knife, probably the murder weapon, and a bloody dish towel, probably used to wipe the knife, were found in a trashbag. The police lifted a handprint from the trashbag.

      It’s likely the handprint belonged to the person who put the items in the trashbag. It’s likely the handprint belonged to the killer.

      The police, of course, compared the handprint against Hank Skinner. It wasn’t his. According to the police, they did not run that handprint through the database. Do you believe their claim? Do you believe they wouldn’t take the ten minutes to make that check? If they didn’t make that check, should they do it now?

      Given that you know so little of this case, why are you so convinced this man should die?

      I suspect it is because death penalty proponents know they can’t afford even one screw-up. Though there have clearly been multiple innocent people executed in Texas and elsewhere, death penalty proponents will never concede a case.

      Not one. Not even the most egregious cases such Cameron Willingham, Carlos Deluna, Ruben Cantu, Gary Graham, Johnny Frank Garrett, Odell Barnes, David Wayne Spence, or any many others I could right now add to this list.

      Innocent people will continue to die at the hands of the State and death penalty proponents will continue to pontificate about cases they know nothing about.

      1. i’m not sure we can ever be certain of guilt. innocent people confess to crimes. most people accept confessions as proof positive. at least, if we abolish the death penalty, we can right those wrongs (to an extent).

      2. Not one. Not even the most egregious cases such Cameron Willingham, Carlos Deluna, Ruben Cantu, Gary Graham, Johnny Frank Garrett, Odell Barnes, David Wayne Spence, or any many others I could right now add to this list.

        You should not have added Gary Graham to the list.

  17. Nobody gives an argument in favor of the execution of skinner, except the Texas justice system and KFDA which uses calomny and lies to support it here:
    http://www.newschannel10.com/G…..S=12193227
    It is a shame to use an unnamed “friend of the family of the victims” never mentioned in the case…to urge execution of an innocent man.

  18. But truthfully folks… if you would read up on it instead of assuming… it was Skinner’s own lawyer who FIRST contested the DNA testing for fear it would further implicate Skinner as the guilty party. This DNA testing now is just a ploy to spare himself from the needle….again. The evidence was pretty cut and dry, and a jury of peers decided he was guilty and deserved to die. Time is up.

    1. But truthfully folks… if you would read up on it instead of assuming… it was Skinner’s own lawyer who FIRST contested the DNA testing for fear it would further implicate Skinner as the guilty party.

      At the time, DNA testing was new, so its use was challenged by both prosecutors and defense attorneys. Thus, Skinner’s attorney would have to challenge DNA testing.

  19. Well, today’s the day. Ironically enough, this is the lead announcement on Perry’s website:

    Gov. Perry Presents Tim Cole’s Family with Posthumous Pardon

    Gov. Rick Perry today presented Tim Cole’s family, including his mother Ruby Session, with a posthumous pardon to acknowledge Cole’s innocence.
    http://www.governor.state.tx.us/

  20. If an innocent man is executed, how can the trial be considered fair? it is interesting that most people claim to believe in god

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