Lab Offers Free DNA Testing for Skinner

Chromosal Laboratories, a DNA testing lab in Phoenix, Ariz., has told Gov. Rick Perry that it will test evidence in the Hank Skinner case for free and within 30 days if he grants a reprieve of the convicted murderer's March 24 execution date.

Skinner was convicted in 1995 of murdering his girlfriend and her two sons in the small West Texas town of Pampa. He has professed his innocence, though, and Skinner argues that DNA testing on a rape kit, knives, a man's windbreaker and other materials from the crime scene could prove someone else was the killer. For a decade, Texas courts have denied Skinner's pleadings for the tests, arguing that should have been done at the original trial. With his execution date less than a week away, Skinner and his attorneys are awaiting responses to their requests for both the U.S. Supreme Court and Perry to intervene and order testing on the DNA evidence.

Perry has authority to grant a one-time 30-day reprieve in capital cases, but he has only done so twice in the past. In an editorial in Sunday's Dallas Morning News, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, Innocence Project co-director Barry Scheck and Cory Session, the brother of Tim Cole who Perry recently granted a posthumous pardon after DNA evidence showed he did not commit the rape that landed him in prison, where he died of an asthma attack, urged Perry to grant the reprieve and force DNA testing to make sure that Skinner is guilty.

"When simple DNA testing may help prevent such a miscarriage, it seems implausible that the Governor and State of Texas would allow the execution to proceed," Chromosomal Laboratories officials said in a press release. "We hope that the great State of Texas will accept this offer in the manner in which it is intended, to help promote justice."

Perry spokeswoman Allison Castle said the governor has not yet decided whether to grant Skinner a reprieve and that a decision on DNA testing would come from the court.

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