Lower Court Denies Skinner DNA Test, Appeal Planned

A Gray County District Court today denied DNA testing that death row inmate Hank Skinner has been seeking for a decade, despite a new law that reduces restrictions on such analysis. Skinner's lawyers plan to appeal the decision to the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, the state's highest criminal court. Skinner is scheduled for execution on Wednesday.

“Unfortunately, the trial court's order offers no explanation for its conclusion that DNA testing is not called for in this case," said Rob Owen, attorney for Hank Skinner and clinical law professor at the University of Texas School of Law. "It will now be up to the Court of Criminal Appeals to give Mr. Skinner's case the deliberate consideration that is necessary to ensure a correct result."

Skinner was convicted in 1995 of killing his live-in girlfriend and her two sons in Pampa. He has maintained his innocence from the start, arguing that he was too inebriated from a mixture of vodka and codeine to overpower the three victims. He has pleaded with the state for more than a decade to test DNA he argues could show that another man was the killer.

The Texas Attorney General's office, which is representing the state, objected to Skinner's request. They argued that the Court of Criminal Appeals has already twice denied Skinner's pleas for additional testing and that even if additional testing were done it would not prove Skinner's innocence.

Owen said the CCA should stay Skinner's execution next week to allow more time to review his request.

"The stakes in this case are too high to allow Mr. Skinner to be executed before he has a fair chance to make his case that the trial court made a grave mistake in denying his request for DNA testing,” Owen said.

Texas Tribune donors or members may be quoted or mentioned in our stories, or may be the subject of them. For a complete list of contributors, click here.