Hank Skinner’s Case: Will DNA Set You Free?
Hank Skinner was born as Henry Watkins Skinner. Skinner was born on April 4, 1962. Skinner is currently a death row inmate residing in Allan B. Polunsky Unit, which is situated in Polk County, Texas.
Back in 1995, Skinner was convicted of bludgeoning and killing his then live-in girlfriend, Twila Busby along with stabbing and killing her two adult sons, Elwin Caler and Randy Busby.
Then on March 24, 2010, less than a half-hour before Skinner was to be executed (second execution date), the United States Supreme Court issued a stay of execution due to the fact that Skinner could request to have the DNA in his case to be retested from his trial back in 1994.
Hank Skinner’s Case Trial
The crime in question happened on December 31, 1993, at the home at 804 East Campbell Avenue in Pampa, Texas.
Skinner was convicted of the crime on March 18, 1995. Skinner was ultimately sentenced to death.
Skinner lived with the three adults that he murdered, his live-in girlfriend along with her two adult sons. Skinner even admitted that he was in the home when the crime happened, but he also stated that he was in a comatose state from an almost lethal dose of alcohol and codeine.
A letter that was published in April 2010, Kinner stated that he was also colorblind and that he accidentally took an almost lethal mix of alcohol and codeine due to the face that he confused his girlfriend’s pink glass, which contained codeine with his own blue glass.
Twila Busby was found murdered in that very living room just a bit away from where Skinner stated that he was laid out and passed out on the sofa.
After the murders occurred, Skinner stated that he was awakened by one of the victims, Elwin Caler. Caler, unfortunately, died on the front porch of a neighbor’s house. Skinner then made his way to Andrea Joyce Reed house. Reed lived just four blocks from the crime scene.
Reed testified in court that Skinner threatened her, if she would have called the cops. But later, Reed recanted that testimony stating that Skinner just casually told her to not get the police involved.
Several hours later, Skinner was arrested in a dark room in the front of Reed’s house. When Skinner was arrested, he was still in clothes that had blood spatters, which matched the DNA of two of the victims that were slain.
Claims and Issues Surrounding Hank Skinner’s Case
There are many troubling issues and claims that have surrounded Hank Skinner’s Case. Here are just a few major one’s issues and claims.
Recants of Testimony
We touched upon the recants of testimony briefly in the last section.
The main witness the prosecution had was Andrea Joyce Reed. Andrea Joyce Reed was the one who owned the home that Skinner fled to after the murders happened. Reed’s house was where Skinner was arrested and taken into custody.
It was not until after the trial against Hank Skinner was over when Reed decided she was going to recant several damning elements of her testimony.
The same thing happened with Reed’s daughter as well. She didn’t recant her testimony, but there were many portions of her testimony that contradicted with the new claims that Reed put in place, which ultimately found to believe that Reed’s recanting her testimony was not credible in the least.
Reed stated that she was giving false testimony during the trial because she was being threatened by investigators to be charged as an accomplice to capital murder and her children would be taken away from her, or her daughter would have to testify as well.
Among all these new allegations, Reed stated that Skinner did, in fact, tell her to contact anyone, but Skinner never did threaten to kill her if she did. This was opposed to what she said during Skinner’s trial.
However, Skinner never did comment on the fact if he did or he did not ask Reed to contact anyone that evening. However, Skinner did state that in the crime scene, he could not call anyone, even if he wanted to as the phone cable was yanked out of the wall.
Unanalyzed Crime Scene Evidence
Skinner and his defense team tried repeatedly to get the DNA analysis on many of the items that were taken from the crime scene. These pieces of evidence include the knife, fingernail clippings, a towel, a jacket, and vaginal swabs.
When the trial was going on, the DNA analysis was already performed on the clothing that Skinner was wearing at the time when he was arrested. That was the only DNA analysis that they had. This DNA analysis was, of course, damning since they found DNA of two of the three victims on the clothing.
The Texas Attorney General released a statement on November 14, 2012, that indicated Skinners DNA and DNA of an unknown suspect was found on the knife that was laying on the front porch.
The statement also went on to say that Skinner’s blood was found in a variety of places including the bedroom, where his girlfriend’s sons were murdered.
However, the jacket that was recovered from the crime scene could not be tested since the state lost it by accident.
Campaign for DNA Testing and Postponed Execution on Texas Death Row
The pending legal proceedings, Skinner had an execution date set for November 9, 2011. Lynn Switzer, the Gray County District Attorney stated in court on June 2, 2011, that the state of Texas completed all necessary requirements of the constitutional due process when they allowed Skinner the chance to test the DNA evidence at trial.
Then in March, the United States Supreme Court held a civil suit against Switzer. The civil suit was over the post-conviction DNA testing. The civil suit favored in Switzer, but they did not rule on if Skinner could have access to the actual pieces of evidence.
Then on September 1, 2011, a new Texan Law, SB 122 took into effect. SB 122 is all about ensuring that the procedural barriers are not an obstacle for prisoners for testing their evidence that was not tested or evidence that could be tested under the new testing procedures.
Then on September 6, 2011, Skinner’s lawyer filed another motion to the state district for the DNA testing of the key pieces of evidence that was never tested prior to the first trial.
Unfortunately, on November 2, 2011, Steven R. Emmert, the judge denied the third movement of DNA testing without explaining why he chose what he chose.
Then on November 7, 2011, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals put a stay on Skinner’s execution, so they can determine if the Texas law will allow for DNA evidence from the crime scene to officially be tested.
Then on June 1, 2012, just a month after the argument at the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, a Texas Attorney stated that he does not oppose a death row inmate request for DNA testing.
It was not until November of 2012 when further DNA analysis was complete. The DNA analysis found Skinner’s blood on many of the crime scene evidence. They even found Skinner’s DNA on the knife found on the porch along with Caler’s (one of the victims) and an unknown suspect.
As of July of 2019, Skinner is still on Texas Death Row. His current appeals are still going through the Texas courts. It’s been a slow-moving process, to say the least.