Texas death row inmate Hank Skinner is set to be executed on November 9.
I wrote about Skinner for Slate last year. While the Troy Davis execution was awful because there were significant doubts about Davis’ guilt, and the Willingham execution because there has since been an overwhelming consensus among forensic arson experts that he was convicted with junk science, the outrage in Skinner’s case exceeds both—and that’s despite the fact that Skinner may well be guilty.
Skinner (who has already come within an hour of execution) is about to be executed despite the fact that there is testable DNA from the murder weapon, the rape kit, hairs one of the victims was found clutching, and a jacket left at the crime scene similar to one worn by another possible suspect, all of which has yet to be tested.
And it’s even worse than that. The state started testing on the hairs a decade ago. When preliminary mitochondrial testing came back negative as a match to either Skinner or the victim, the state just decided to stop further testing.
It’s one thing to consider all of the evidence, find it unconvincing, and then proceed with an execution despite strong disagreement from the suspect’s supporters. It’s a whole other level of moral culpability to deliberately remain ignorant about evidence that could definitively establish guilt or innocence.
The testing will at most cost a few thousand dollars. Skinner’s attorneys and a lab and Arizona have already agreed to cover that cost. It would take no longer than a few months. If Skinner is indeed guilty, the tests could have been done, confirmed his guilt, and he’d have been executed years ago.
I have no idea if Hank Skinner is guilty. Neither does the state of Texas. The difference is that I and anyone with a lick of conscience would prefer we find out before the man is put to death.
Seems that Texas officials would just rather not know.