Texas Gov. Rick Perry urged to stay execution, allow for DNA testing
More than 120,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Texas Gov. Rick Perry to halt the execution of convicted murderer Hank Skinner to allow for the testing of DNA evidence that Skinner says could exonerate him.
"We urge you to uphold the very standards you are promoting as part of a very much needed criminal justice reform and we ask you to demand the withdrawal of the execution warrant and that DNA testing be granted to Mr. Skinner in the best possible time," the petition says. "We trust you to do the right thing for justice and for the truth in Texas, before it is too late."
Skinner, 49, is scheduled to be executed Wednesday for the 1993 deaths of his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons in the Panhandle town of Pampa, about 55 miles east of Amarillo. Skinner admits to having been at the murder scene, but says he was too groggy from a mixture of alcohol and codeine to have committed the crimes.
Skinner says his original lawyer refused his requests to have evidence from the crime scene DNA-tested before he was convicted in 2005. That evidence included blood from the murder weapon, blood from a jacket left in Busby's home, rape-kit results taken from Busby, scrapings from under Busby's fingernails, and hairs she was clutching when she died.
Last year, Skinner's execution was stayed by the U.S. Supreme Court an hour before he was due to die, and the case was sent back to state courts to decide the DNA-testing issue. Skinner also has an appeal pending in federal court.
Prosecutors have said Skinner and his attorneys are simply attempting to delay his execution.
Skinner's online supporters disagree.
"While Texas Gov. Rick Perry is on the campaign trail, Hank Skinner awaits execution on Nov. 9 for a crime he says he didn't commit -- a crime where evidence has gone untested for DNA for more than a decade," Gilles Denizot, who launched the petition, told the New York Daily News.
"This is a mockery of justice," Denizot said.
In addition to the Change.org petition, a group of current and former Texas lawmakers, judges, police officers and even former governor Mark White sent Perry a letter last month urging him to suspend the execution pending the DNA test results.
"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," they wrote.
-- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Houston
Photo: Hank Skinner. Credit: Associated Press / Texas Department of Criminal Justice