If prosecutors don’t change course, on November 9th Hank Skinner could be the 476th person executed by the State of Texas since 1976. Problem is, Skinner, like Troy Davis, may well be innocent, and Texas prosecutors have so far blocked DNA testing of evidence that could prove it.
In March, over the objection of prosecutors, the United States Supreme Court cleared the way for Skinner to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit to compel DNA testing of the untested evidence. Even though that litigation remains pending and unresolved, prosecutors have obtained an execution date for Skinner and appear poised to execute him before the court rules on his claim.
The prosecutors’ stubborn combination of refusing to allow this DNA testing and insisting that the execution go forward is unconscionable.
A letter today from prominent Texas officials including a former governor, a former criminal appeals judge, former district attorneys and current Texas legislators, eloquently spelled out why the testing should be done before Skinner’s execution date:
Executing Mr. Skinner without testing all the relevant evidence would suggest official indifference to the possibility of error in this case and needlessly undermine public confidence in Texas’s criminal justice system.
We would add that testing this evidence is necessary to make sure another innocent man is not executed this year. Is that too much to ask?