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.IT IS SO ORDERED THIS THE 7th DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2011.
AND DEMAND DNA TESTING.
Governor Perry signed SB 122 into law on June 17, 2011. This bill is intended to ensure that if DNA evidence is available to prove someone’s innocence, it can and will be tested. This revised post-conviction DNA law was authored and sponsored by legislators who strongly supported the bill for cases like Hank Skinner’s who is set for execution on November 9, 2011. Senator Ellis, who authored the bill, stated in an interview this week that he does not understand how the court could continue to deny Mr. Skinner’s request, which he said his recent legislation would allow.
Gov. Perry, who has presided over 237 executions since taking office in 2001, must ensure that the criminal justice reforms he supports be implemented. In this respect, 17 former and current Texas elected officials as well as 27 exonerees have sent letters to Governor Perry to express their serious concerns about the lack of justice in Mr. Skinner’s case. While Rick Perry campaigns for the GOP presidential nomination, Justice4Hank urges him to do the right thing for justice and for the truth in Texas, before it is too late.
- March 7, 2011 – The U.S. Supreme Court rules in Mr. Skinner’s favor by 6 votes to 3.
- April 4, 2011 – The U.S. Supreme Court lifts the stay and remands the case to the lower court.
- May 20, 2011 – The Texas House approves SB 122, legislation by Senator Rodney Ellis (D-Houston) to strengthen Texas’ post-conviction DNA testing law.
- June 2, 2011 – Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer, the defendant in the civil lawsuit, files a motion for summary judgment as well as a brief in support of her motion.
- June 17, 2011 – Governor Perry signs SB 122 into law.
- July 21, 2011 – Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer files a declaration under oath.
- July 27, 2011 – Sentencing Judge Emmert issues a new death warrant for a November 9 execution.
- September 1, 2011 – SB 122 becomes effective.
- September 2, 2011 – Hank Skinner’s attorneys file a motion for DNA testing under the revised statutes as well as a motion to withdraw the death warrant.
- November 2, 2011 – Judge Emmert, without any explanation, denies the new motion for DNA testing.
The march will be led by 25 death row survivors who each spent many years on death rows around the U.S. despite being innocent. The 25 exonerees are coming to Texas as members of Witness to Innocence. Some of the exonerees are in Texas for a speaking tour across the state and all of them will be in Austin for the Witness to Innocence “Gathering” from October 20-23. Witness to Innocence is the nation’s only organization composed of, by and for exonerated death row survivors and their loved ones.
Before his execution,Troy Davis told his supporters in a letter,”There are so many more Troy Davises. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe. We need to dismantle this unjust system city by city,state by state and country by country.”
Texas has executed 475 people since 1982 (as of Oct 16, 2011). Under current Texas Governor Rick Perry, 236 people have been executed, including some with a strong case of innocence. Twelve people have been exonerated while on death row in Texas, the most recent being Anthony Graves in 2010. Since 1976, there have been 138 death row exonerations in the United States.
“We will be urging all Texans to join us at the March to Abolish the Death Penalty on October 22 in Austin”, said Ron Keine, formerly on death row in New Mexico.
“As they see what the death penalty really means, in my case and others, more and more Texans believe that Texas can do without the death penalty,” said exonerated death row survivor Clarence Brandley, from Conroe, Texas, who has been fighting for compensation from the state of Texas for over twenty years.
Each October since 2000, people from all walks of life and all parts of Texas, the U.S. and other countries have taken a day out of their year and gathered in Austin to raise their voices together and loudly express their opposition to the death penalty. The march is a coming together of activists, family members of people on death row, community leaders, exonerated former death row prisoners and all those calling for repeal of the Texas death penalty.
The annual march is organized as a joint project by several Texas anti-death penalty organizations and their allies: Texas Moratorium Network, the Austin chapter of the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, the Texas Death Penalty Abolition Movement, Texas Students Against the Death Penalty, Witness to Innocence, Journey of Hope … From Violence to Healing, Texas Civil Rights Project, International Socialist Organization, Amnesty International at The University of Texas, Kids Against the Death Penalty, The Austin Chronicle, NOKOA, Gray Panthers and Democrats for Life.
“They kill people at a record pace + many of them innocent. They do not care about Justice, only feeding the machine,” Todd Willingham in a letter addressed “Dear Stacy” in April 2000.
If you think you don’t have time to come to the 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty this Saturday, then think about what it must be like to be an innocent person on death row and how you wish people would stand up and fight for you. It is too late to save Todd Willingham, but you can save other innocent people who are still on death row. Attend the march!
Texas Moratorium Network (TMN) is a non-profit organization with the primary goal of mobilizing statewide support for a moratorium on executions in Texas. Significant death penalty reform in Texas, including a moratorium on executions, is a viable goal if the public is educated on the death penalty system and is encouraged to contact their elected representatives to urge passage of moratorium legislation.
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