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Texas Court Puts Brakes on Execution to Consider Need for DNA Testing

Brian Stull,
Senior Staff Attorney ,
ACLU Capital Punishment Project
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November 7, 2011

A couple of weeks ago, we told you about the plans of Texas prosecutors to execute Hank Skinner this coming Wednesday, despite that crucial DNA evidence that could exonerate him has never been tested. Today the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals put the brakes on these plans, staying Skinner’s scheduled execution.

In a brief order, the court held that the execution could not go forward while Skinner’s application for DNA evidence testing remained unresolved. The court also noted that Skinner’s application for DNA testing relied on changes to the Texas statute concerning DNA testing that had been prompted by his case. The court stated that it needed time “to fully review the changes in the statute as they pertain to this case.”

While the court did not decide whether it will require DNA testing of the untested evidence, its decision is an encouraging sign. The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals routinely hears motions to stay executions, and usually denies them. The court saw something different in this case. That is reason to be hopeful that justice will finally be served.

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