Death Penalty

Stay of Execution Granted for Hank Skinner Pending a DNA Test


A spokesperson in Texas Gov. Rick Perry's office has confirmed that a stay of execution has been granted for Hank Skinner, the Texas man convicted in 1995 for the murder of his girlfriend and her two adult sons two years earlier. The stay comes from the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, not Perry himself. 

Skinner was set to be executed on November 9, despite the fact that much of the physical evidence related to his case had not been tested for DNA. That evidence will now be tested. I asked Perry's office which tests will be performed, and when, and was told they'd get back to me with that information this afternoon. 

The Texas Tribune's Brandi Grissom confirmed with Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that the court, not Perry, issued the stay. Radley Balko, whose reporting on Skinner is top-notch, confirmed the same thing with Skinner's legal team, and adds that not all of the evidence that Skinner wants tested still exists. 

UPDATE: Radley has more on the court order for the stay. First and foremost, he notes that the order isn't for DNA testing, it's "a stay to determine if he should get DNA testing." 

NEXT: Federal Judge Blocks New Cigarette Warning Labels

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  1. Not to sound overly cynical, but as a long-time Texan, I have to wonder if this stay would have been granted if Perry weren’t in national election mode (given his reluctance to grant such reprieves in the past).

    1. That’s what I was thinking, except how does this help him in the primaries? I could see it in the general maybe.

      1. I think it’s just to avoid another controversy that would bring him back into the press, at a time when Cain is being blasted. Let the media focus on Cain right now, and just have a byline or two about Perry’s compassion.

        Don’t get me wrong; I’m happy for the guy to get his test regardless of the political reasons involved.

  2. Wow. Has he ever done this before?

    1. To be clear: Perry didn’t grant the stay, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals did.

      1. Okay, but I thought he’d somehow prevented similar things from happening in the past. I must be confused.

        1. Everybody he killed deserved to be killed. He will be on t-shirts next to Che Guevara soon.

        2. He couldn’t. Under separation of powers doctrine, the executive cannot override a court order.

    2. Like in most states there is both your appeals through the court system (and then to the SCOTUS) and the governor has a pardon power to be used whenever. In Texas, unlike most states and the president, the pardon power is limited because he can only pardon people approved by a committee. He has used it before in capital cases but we execute so many people that you wouldn’t notice.

      Where I used pardon above you can subsitute reprieve or clemency as necessary. In this case it is only a reprieve and clemency would be converting a death sentence to life without parole but that won’t be considered till after the DNA tests.

  3. And I’d have gotten away with it too, if not for that meddling Radley Balko.

    1. It wasn’t so much Balko as it was the box.

      1. + intellectual points

            1. dangsin-eun jeongmal chinjeolhan sonnim ibnida.

  4. “We find he killed her beyond a reasonable dou… Oh, hi Ms. Busby!”

  5. OT: NCDC data shows that the contiguous USA has not warmed in the past decade, summers are cooler, winters are getting colder…

    There’s been a lot of buzz and conflicting reports over what the BEST data actually says, especially about the last decade where we have dueling opinions on a “slowing down”, “leveling off”, “standstill”, or “slight rise” (depending on whose pronouncements you read) of global warming.

    makes for some interesting reading.

    1. “…the contiguous USA has not warmed in the past decade…”

      DESPITE the best efforts of Herman Cain, hubba-hubba.

  6. The spokesperson at the governor’s office told me that he was granted a stay AND the DNA testing would be done. Not completely clear on how or when that will be handled.

    1. In a lab, hopefully.

        1. Why on earth didn’t a DNA test be ordered on every case in America as soon as the science became available. I realize that in cases there is no DNA evidence, but what about the others?

          1. As stated below, the incentive for the state is in not finding exculpatory evidence. From what I hear, if you’re an assistant DA in Harris County (Houston) and you’ve got a 95% conviction rate, your ass is out the door, because you’re not getting enough guilty verdicts. They do NOT want DNA testing because of the risk of it coming back with a result that exonerates the defendant.

  7. Everyone should have the right to have DNA testing if they want it. If it proves they committed the crime, get on with executing them. Then only the innocent will be requesting it. I never understand why prosecutors fight DNA testing on these old cases, unless, of course, they believe the person is innocent.

    1. Because they do not look at their jobs as finding the truth, they look at their jobs as a win/loss/draw report.

  8. “I never understand why prosecutors fight DNA testing on these old cases, unless, of course, they believe the person is innocent.”

    They get credit, raises, promotions, and political office if they score convictions, wrongful or not.

    They get the opposite if wrongful convictions are reversed on appeal.

  9. Ot breaking: BBC world today, via NPR interviews woman who is “new face of poverty”.

    She indicated she was “food insecure” (which I found to be curiously talking-point ish).

    When asked about the details of her poverty, she said she had a “masters degree in inter-disciplinary studies” and had “$150,000” in student loan debt.

  10. She indicated she was “food insecure”

    Hey, don’t laugh. I experienced food insecurity just last weekend.

    The menu at the five-star restaurant was totally intimidating, and the waiter made me feel like a total bumpkin. I finally just ordered the tasting menu, but I felt humiliated and, yes, insecure.

    1. It seemed clear to me that one of the disciplines not covered in her interdisciplinary degree was economics.

    2. The gold-bodied Rolls and monocle did not help?

  11. “and adds that not all of the evidence that Skinner wants tested still exists.”

    Thus keeping th ball in the air for eternity.

    1. What? The state disappearing evidence that may prove to be exculpatory?? Say it ain’t so!

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