The U.S. Supreme Court announced this morning that it will take up Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner's case.
Skinner has maintained his innocence from the time he was arrested in 1993 for the New Year's eve slaughter of his live-in girlfriend and her two mentally disabled adult sons. Skinner argues that DNA obtained at the scene of the crime but never analyzed could prove that another person committed the killings. Texas courts, though, have repeatedly denied Skinner's requests for additional DNA testing, asserting that Skinner had the opportunity to do those tests at his original trial and failed to do so.
The question before the court in Skinner's case is not whether DNA testing should be allowed. The court will decide whether Skinner's case can proceed as a federal civil rights claim. If the court agrees with Skinner, it will allow him to seek DNA testing in federal court.
"We are pleased that the Supreme Court has agreed to hear Mr. Skinner's appeal," Skinner attorney Rob Owen, co-director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Capital Punishment Clinic. "That decision represents the necessary first step to our eventually obtaining the DNA testing that Mr. Skinner has long sought. We look forward to the opportunity to persuade the Court that if a state official arbitrarily denies a prisoner access to evidence for DNA testing, the prisoner should be allowed to challenge that decision in a federal civil rights lawsuit."