Wednesday, November 14, 2012

AG Says DNA Tests Implicate Hank Skinner in '93 Murders

DNA testing that death row inmate Hank Skinner sought for more than a decade further implicates him in the New Year’s Eve 1993 triple murder for which he was sentenced to die, according to an advisory that the Texas Attorney General’s Office filed Wednesday in Gray County state district court.

But a lawyer for Skinner, who was convicted in 1995 of the murders of his live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two adult sons in Pampa, said the DNA testing is incomplete and indicates that another person may have been at the scene of the crimes.

“We find it troubling that the Attorney General’s Office has seen fit to release partial results of the DNA testing and submit its ‘advisory’ to the court while the DNA testing is still in progress,” said Rob Owen, co-director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Capital Punishment Clinic, in an emailed statement.

Skinner has steadfastly maintained his innocence, claiming that he was unconscious on the couch at the time of the killings, intoxicated from a mixture of vodka and codeine. Beginning in 2000, he pleaded for DNA testing that he argued would prove his claims. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court stayed his execution less than an hour before he was scheduled to die and agreed to hear arguments in his case. Skinner sought testing on a slew of crime scene evidence that was not analyzed at his original trial, including a rape kit, biological material from Busby’s fingernails, sweat and hair from a man’s jacket, a bloody towel and knives.


Source: The Texas Tribune, November 14, 2012


Statement from Attorney for Hank Skinner in Response to Initial DNA Test Results in Hank Skinner Case

“We find it troubling that the Attorney General’s Office has seen fit to release partial results of the DNA testing and submit its ‘advisory’ to the court while the DNA testing is still in progress. The partial results which have been produced by the initial round of DNA testing show that at least one person other than Hank Skinner and the victims may have been present in the house on the night the murders took place, and may have had contact with one of the weapons used in the killings.

We will remain unable to draw any strong conclusions about whether the DNA testing has resolved the stubborn questions about Hank Skinner’s guilt or innocence until additional DNA testing has been completed, and the data underlying that DNA testing has been made available to our experts for a detailed review.

Specifically, DNA testing of a carpet sample from the bedroom occupied by victims Elwin Caler and Randy Busby reveals a mixture of the DNA of Mr. Caler and that of an unknown person who is not Mr. Skinner, Randy Busby, or Twila Busby.

In addition, DNA testing of one stain on a knife that may well have been used in the murders reveals a mixture of DNA from three contributors. Two of those contributors appear to be Mr. Caler and Mr. Skinner, but the third contributor is someone other than Mr. Caler, Mr. Skinner, Randy Busby or Twila Busby.

The DPS crime laboratory submitted the unknown DNA profile from the carpet sample to the Texas law enforcement DNA database, but that search produced no matches.

We have requested additional DNA testing that could improve the quality of the unknown DNA profile from the carpet sample, to allow authorities to submit it to CODIS, the national law enforcement DNA database, to search for matches there. We have also requested additional DNA testing of the stains from the knife, likewise hoping to develop further the DNA profile of the third contributor.

All the parties must do everything in their power to make sure Texas does not make an irreversible mistake.”

-- Rob Owen, attorney for Hank Skinner | Clinical Professor, University of Texas School of Law, November 14, 2012