Skinner Gets Stay to Determine if He’ll Get DNA Testing

Monday, November 7th, 2011

The Texas Court of Criminal Appeals just ruled in favor of Hank Skinner’s request for DNA testing.  request for a stay to determine if he should get DNA testing.

I’ll post the statement from Skinner’s attorneys once I receive it.

MORE: Here’s the  language from the court order:

This is a direct appeal of the trial court’s ruling on a motion for DNA testing filed in the 31st Judicial District Court of Gray County, Cause No. 5216, styled The State of Texas v. Henry Watkins Skinner. See TEX. CODE CRIM. PROC. art. 64.05. Appellant’s execution is stayed pending the resolution of this appeal.

Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Chapter 64, which provides for DNA testing, has undergone several changes since its creation, but those changes have never been reviewed in the particular context of this case. Because the DNA statute has changed, and because some of those changes were because of this case, we find that it would be prudent for this Court to take time to fully review the changes in the statute as they pertain to this case.

Furthermore, in denying the motion for DNA testing, the convicting court has failed to enter determinations under Texas Code of Criminal Procedure article 64.03. The convicting court shall enter an order containing the relevant Article 64.03 determinations within 15 days of the date of this order. That order shall then be included within a supplemental clerk’s record, which record shall be forwarded to this Court within 30 days of the date of this order.


So it doesn’t look like this is an order for DNA testing so much as a stay to determine whether the new law allows Skinner to get DNA testing.

MORE: Statement from Skinner’s attorney:

“The Court of Criminal Appeals with its decision today, has ensured that Mr. Skinner’s request for DNA testing will receive the thorough and serious consideration it deserves. We are grateful for the Court’s action and look forward to the opportunity to make Mr. Skinner’s case for DNA testing in that forum.”
Rob Owen, attorney for Mr. Skinner
November 7, 2011

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20 Responses to “Skinner Gets Stay to Determine if He’ll Get DNA Testing”

  1. #1 |  Danny | 

    Blessings be upon your shiny round head, brother.

    The world needs more “glibertarians” like Radley.

  2. #2 |  Stay of Execution Granted for Hank Skinner Pending a DNA Test - Hit & Run : Reason Magazine | 

    […] Radley has more on the court order for the stay. First and foremost, he notes that the order isn't for DNA testing, it's "a stay to determine if he […]

  3. #3 |  KBCraig | 

    So, the TCCA just left it up to the same court that has screwed this pooch from the beginning?

    Wonderful. Might as well let the prosecutor write the ruling himself.

  4. #4 |  Yes | 

    KBCraig – Yes that’s how it always works. The trial court will decide and the decision will makes it way back up to the CCA on appeal.

  5. #5 |  literate | 

    Am I not recalling correctly that Skinner is explicitly mentioned in the official legislative history of the law that is being reviewed in this hearing, as a reason for the existence of the law?

  6. #6 |  Judi | 

    I think I was one of the first people that heard the news directly from Perry’s office. I called and the spokeperson asked what my call was related to and of course I said Hank Skinner.

    She said, “Oh yes, we were just told to tell everyone who calls that Hank Skinner has been granted and stay and the DNA testing would be done.”

    Not expecting to hear this, I was speechless for a moment.

    I said, “Are you sure?”

    She said, “Yes ma’m.”

    I shouted thank you, three times and she responded very happily, “You betcha!”

    Perry did not grant the stay. The Texas Court of Appeals did. The spokeperson did not elaborate on the DNA. The above was the content of our conversation. I know the governor cannot order DNA testing himself…

    But this is a victory regardless of how it came about even if it’s a small one.

  7. #7 |  Dave Reed | 

    I thought the most interesting part of the ruling was:

    The convicting court shall enter an order containing the relevant Article 64.03 determinations within 15 days of the date of this order.

    I’d be the first to admit my ignorance of court rulings is both deep and wide, but it sounds to me as if the appeals court told the trial court to explain WHY he decided not to allow the test.

    Perhaps one of you more experienced court-watchers could enlighten me? Is this a common statement in appeals rulings?

  8. #8 |  Bergman | 

    > whether the new law allows Skinner to get DNA testing.

    Given how the new law was passed to specifically address situations like Mr. Skinner’s, how could the law NOT apply to his situation?

  9. #9 |  BamBam | 

    @6: If “ignorance of the law is no excuse” is a valid position, then that implies everyone must also be able to understand the court system from A-Z. So it has been said, so it shall be.
    — your Masters (AKA public servants AKA The State)

  10. #10 |  MacGregory | 

    This guy may be guilty for all I know. It should be important to all of us. Why the hell wouldn’t you want to look at all the evidence? It’s OK to be wrong. Prosecutors don’t seem to get that.

  11. #11 |  Texas Death Row Inmate Granted Stay Of Execution « CrimeAlertBlog.Com | 

    […] items from the crime scene have not been tested for DNA. The stay will determine whether the law allows the DNA to be […]

  12. #12 |  Stick | 

    The alleged justice system would rather spend who-knows-how-many hundreds of thousands of dollars with all these rubbish rulings, appeals and multiple court cases instead of DNA testing everyone and everything first time, everytime, at a fraction of the cost. Why?

  13. #13 |  gersan | 

    Dear Radley,

    Why don’t you ask the Koch Bros. to pay for a DNA test for Hank Skinner? In fact, the Kochs have enough money to pay for every needed DNA test in the US, and it would be money much better spent than trying to lobby for the destruction of Social Security and Medicare. There is no fracking way the Bros. will out-do AARP when it comes to lobbying, so why waste effort trying? They should take the money they inherited from Daddy and help get some innocent prisoners released instead.

  14. #14 |  Radley Balko | 


    The problem in Skinner’s case isn’t paying for the tests. A lab in Arizona has offered to do the tests for free. The Innocence Project has also offered to pay for the tests.

    In fact, in all of these cases, funding is never the issue. The problem is getting access to the evidence.

  15. #15 |  Bergman | 

    Re: gersan, #13:

    I’ve been wondering about folks like you for a while now. Are you REALLY opposing civil rights simply because individuals you dislike are in favor of civil rights?

    Ever heard the old saying, cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face? Why does it matter so much to you who is in favor of not executing innocent people, rather than the core issue, that executing innocent people not only kills an innocent person, but ends pursuit of the person who actually committed the crime?

  16. #16 |  tarran | 

    MR Gersan,

    What a moronic, puerile load of drivel. The fact is that numerous privately funded charities and individuals have put up the funding for these tests. Funding is not an issue, it’s the insistence of the government court monopoly in preventing their omniscience and omnipotence being called into question.

    You to whingeing about the evil Kochssssessss as if they are responsible for yet more oppression from the state (a state you no doubt would like to give more power if you are like the vast majority of Kochsssessssss haters I know) demonstrates a profound lack of connection with reality.

  17. #17 |  Pam | 

    Gersan has a valid point. But suggesting the Koch brothers would ever care about justice or any issue that doesn’t profit them directly is the absurdity.

    Many are innocent in prison. “Like any bully, they pick on someone they don’t think can fight back,”-Jason Baldwin WM3 (forced to plead guilty to save his innocent friend from execution).

    It’s true the obscenely rich can help multitudes, but one person can make a difference. One by one, brick by brick many are helped by the many. The Kock brothers are irrelevant. Collectively, individuals have all the power. We should stop expecting or hoping the absurdly rich will bail us out. Collectively you ARE the rich. Carry your brother. The Kochs can carry their sacks of gold, who cares.

  18. #18 |  gersan | 


    We on the Left don’t dislike the Koch Brothers simply because they exist, or that they’re rich. We’re against them because they are actively trying to eliminate the social programs and workers’ rights that have increased the life-expectancy and decreased infant mortality over the past 70 years. And that is why the 99% Movement was outside blocking the entrances to the Orwellian-named Americans for Prosperity shindig.

    Now, if the Brothers ever cared to invest their money more wisely, they should focus on eliminating a good portion of the Criminal Injustice System by decriminalizing consensual behaviors. Lord knows that NORML and SWOP could use the lobbying money. That would decrease the amount of tax-dollars going into the System, which makes it a win-win for both Libertarians and Leftists, because prisons are a social program that Leftists don’t care to continue (even so-called “private prisons” are tax-funded).

    Instead, we have the Brothers going up against the AARP and the agricultural lobby (food stamps), both of which are much more powerful than they are.

    Case in point: the Bush Administration itself tried to openly defund Social Security, and they could not do this even with the Patriot Acts on their side. What makes the Brothers think they can succeed where the most powerful presidency in American history failed? The Kochs need to wake up and smell the coffee and put their money into efforts that have a far better chance of success.

  19. #19 |  Big A | 

    gersan- for someone who wants to decriminalize consensual behaviors, you sure like telling people what to do.

  20. #20 |  Dudley Sharp | 

    Dudley Sharp

    Any additional DNA testing results will not exclude Skinner as the murderer, while the additional evidence, now, further supports Skinner’s guilt, just as previous DNA testing does.

    Skinner refused additional DNA testing, pre trial, because he feared he would be even more implicated with more testing – the only reason for such a refusal.

    There are two confessions from Skinner.

    Skinner offered to plead guilty to one of the three murders, in exchange for a reduced sentence. The prosecution refused.

    Skinner’s own blood splatter expert testified that the blood evidence did not support Skinner’s only alibi, that he was too intoxicated to have taken part in the murders.

    No one, knowledgeable of this case, believes additional DNA testing can possibly prove Skinner innocent. He’s a guilty triple murderer.


    Skinner declined additional DNA testing, pre trial, knowing it would clear him, because he preferred a death sentence, instead.

    It’s the only “logic” whereby additional DNA testing could save Skinner, now.

    Texas had been fighting the additional DNA testing to avoid the horrible precedent.

    Any criminal could game the system, in the same manner, by not insisting on any such testing, pre trial, knowing that if convicted, they could take a second bite at the apple later, after the conviction, even thought they know it will not help them, but is only a method of causing more headaches for the state and, in some cases, causing additional delays in an execution, just as with Skinner.

    My belief is the AG only agreed to the testing, now, to avoid that unfortunate court precedent


    NOTE on issue I thought Twila’s mom said the coat was Twila’s. Didn’t she? Does it matter? Nope, not with all the evidence against Skinner.