Wednesday, May 02, 2012

Hank Skinner Goes Before Texas High Court for DNA Testing Request the Same Week that Two More Men Exonerated in Dallas Based on DNA Testing of Trial Evidence After Serving 30 Years on Wrongful Conviction

Innocent men and women set convicted in Texas jails and prisons: it's a harsh reality that serves to fuel the passions of criminal defense attorneys everywhere, since defense lawyers know better than most how unfair and frustrating the criminal justice system can be.

Today, for example, Hank Skinner will be arguing his case before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals.  Oral arguments, in fact, may be happening as this post is being typed but it will be months from now before the High Court issues its opinion.  (You can follow Hank Skinner's case via its online docket here, as Cause No. AP-76,675 styled Henry W. Skinner v. State of Texas.)

Will a Hank Skinner DNA Test Prove His Innocence?

Hank Skinner sets on Texas Death Row, a man who has consistently claimed his innocence.  During his criminal trial, it is admitted that his criminal defense lawyers made the strategy decision to NOT ask for Mr. Skinner's DNA to be compared to all the evidence.  Why the prosecutors didn't bother to check this out long ago, well that's a different story. 

Since then, it's been found that there were several pieces of evidence that did indeed have DNA from an unknown source -- NOT Mr. Skinner (for details, read here.).  Who was this unknown person at the crime scene?  Good question. 

Understandably, Hank Skinner has been fighting hard for that DNA testing and we've been monitoring his fight.  For details, check out our earlier posts including:

Exonerations of James Williams and Raymond Jackson: This Week's Examples of Innocent Inmates and Justice Denied

Within days of the Hank Skinner oral argument before the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, here in Dallas there was a victory for which Mr. Skinner and his supporters can perhaps take some comfort and hope:  Judge Susan Hawk found both Raymond Jackson and James Williams innocent of crimes for which they had been wrongfully convicted almost 30 years ago, having been found guilty and imprisoned for rape and kidnapping back in 1983.

On April 30, 2012, Raymond Jackson and James Williams appeared before Judge Hawk at their exoneration hearing and were officially declared innocent on the public record. 

What happened here?  DNA testing revealed not only that Mr. Jackson and Mr. Williams were innocent of this crime, but that two other men were involved - and these two men have now been arrested and all these years later, are facing charges of attempted murder.