Supreme Court Grants Cert to Hank Skinner

Monday, May 24th, 2010

The Supreme Court has granted certiorari to Hank Skinner, a Texas death row inmate who is trying to get access to DNA evidence that he claims will clear his name.

The Court has already ruled that there is no constitutional right to post-conviction DNA testing, but Skinner’s claim is that he’s entitled to the testing under federal civil rights law.

Interestingly, it was Justice Scalia who first stayed Skinner’s execution in March. Scalia has written in a couple of opinions now that the U.S. Constitution does not prevent the government from executing an innocent person.

I wrote about Skinner’s case in February.

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14 Responses to “Supreme Court Grants Cert to Hank Skinner”

  1. #1 |  Michael not Mann | 

    I was looking at the people released from death row. I one of the most egregious cases, the prosecutor worked with the killer to put the innocent man on death row.

    I guess police and prosecutors are content on imprisoning innocent people to keep their numbers looking good.

  2. #2 |  J sub D | 

    Skinner’s lawyer at trial did not seek the DNA testing. His attorneys who have been handling his appeals have sought the DNA tests for 10 years, but the state has refused to grant the request.

    This bothers me. It is called the justice system, not the conviction system for a reason. If you’ve got the right guy, DNA testing will be either inconclusive (he remains convicted) or prove beyond a shadow of a doubt he’s guilty (he remains convicted and the prosecuor can sleep with a clear conscience*).

    If DNA testing exonerates him, justice, the purported aim of state’s criminal justice served is served. Yeah, you’ve got some egg on your face but isn’t that far preferable to executing an innocent man?

    Short version – I question the morality of the Texas government in fighting this.

    * As clear a conscience as sending a human being to death allows.

  3. #3 |  Darkefang | 

    The prosecutor’s job is to prosecute cases. They keep their job by prosecuting as many convictions as possible. There is no reward for making sure the guilty party is convicted and no sanction if an innocent party is convicted. When deciding whether or not to take a case, the prosecutor asks, “Can this person be convicted?”, not “Is this person guilty?” Under the current legal system, innocence or guilt is irrelevant.

  4. #4 |  Peter Ramins | 

    How can any reasonable person not interpret ‘due process of law’ as including the right to prove your innocence? It’s hard enough to prove a negative, but if you say you can do it, you should be able to try.

  5. #5 |  Andrew Williams | 

    Does the state of TX even HAVE a case anymore? Or is it just that Rick Perry is a stubborn eedjit and won’t admit he might be wrong?

    /no-brainer

  6. #6 |  JS | 

    Darkefang “Under the current legal system, innocence or guilt is irrelevant.”

    That’s an interesting point. How did it get to be that way, or has it always been that way?

  7. #7 |  EH | 

    That’s an interesting point. How did it get to be that way, or has it always been that way?

    I’m gonna go with “always been.” The marginal have long been sacrificed in service of group solidarity. It’s human nature if anything is.

  8. #8 |  JS | 

    You’re probably right EH but it seems like either it’s worse now or maybe it’s just more open. Idk, ambition don’t care who it hurts I guess. Damn shame so many people in positions of power don’t have a conscience.

  9. #9 |  Will | 

    Seems to me that killing an innocent man would fall squarely under cruel and unusual punishment.

  10. #10 |  Michael not Mann | 

    I’ve made the Darkefang view in the past. Innocence is not part of the legal system. You can’t plead innocent and the jury can’t find you innocent.

    If you’ve been following Radley for some time, you know a judge can prohibit the defense from providing a defense and grant the right to the prosecutor to commit perjury.

  11. #11 |  Darkefang | 

    “That’s an interesting point. How did it get to be that way, or has it always been that way?”

    My guess would be that it’s been that way since people decided that conviction rates were going to be the only metric used in deciding whether or not to retain a prosecutor.

  12. #12 |  supercat | 

    //Scalia has written in a couple of opinions now that the U.S. Constitution does not prevent the government from executing an innocent person.//

    If one declares that actual innocence must be an absolute bar against execution or continued imprisonment, how is that innocence be determined? Even if evidence comes to light which would on its face seem to demonstrate innocence, by what means should it be evaluated? It would be fairly trivial to produce arbitrary quantities of evidence which would at first glance imply innocence, but on detailed examination prove worthless. If every introduction of a piece of evidence that would seem to justify innocence would constitute grounds for a stay, a defense lawyer could stay execution indefinitely by continuously introducing such “evidence”.

    No set of rules is going to be perfect. There is a definite need for some reforms, especially with regard to punishing wrongdoing by government officials, but judges have limited power to impose such punishment themselves. One thing that would help would be a recognition that no government agent’s legitimate duties involve illegitimate actions. Government agents should have zero immunity against charges or lawsuits when they act unlawfully. Any grant of immunity would constitute an effective (but illegitimate) title of nobility.

  13. #13 |  Cynical in CA | 

    “Scalia has written in a couple of opinions now that the U.S. Constitution does not prevent the government from executing an innocent person.”

    It’s true — the Constitution is not a suicide pact, it’s a homicide pact.

  14. #14 |  fwb | 

    And Scalia proves his stupidity and ignorance.

    The Constitution allows the feds to punish in four (4) areas. They have no more legal constitutional police power than the following:

    1) punishment for counterfeiting current securities and coin.
    2) punishment for piracies and felonies on the high seas.
    3) punishment for offense against the law of nations
    4) punishment for treason.

    These grants are EXPLICIT in the Constitution. There are no inherent or implied powers under our system of government.

    Anyone who has read the Framers knows that police power was left to the states except in the above few cases.

    Everyone the government as punished by death except in the above cases was murdered by our government.

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