Upcoming Executions
Click for a list of upcoming scheduled executions in Texas.
Innocence
The death penalty puts innocent people at risk of execution.
Todd Willingham
Todd Willingham was wrongfully executed under Governor Rick Perry on February 17, 2004.
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.
IT IS SO ORDERED THIS THE 7th DAY OF NOVEMBER, 2011.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – November 6, 2011

CONTACT: Justice4Hank, Gilles Denizot justice4hank@gmail.com
OVER 130,000 ASK GOVERNOR PERRY TO STOP HANK SKINNER’S EXECUTION
AND DEMAND DNA TESTING.
Hank Skinner, a man on death row in Texas since 1995 who has consistently maintained his innocence, is set to be executed on November 9 despite untested key evidence in his case.
HOUSTON, TEXAS – In less than two days, more than 130,000 people called on Texas Governor and presidential candidate Rick Perry to stay the execution and test the evidence in the murder case of Hank Skinner, who is set to be executed on November 9.
On November 4, Justice4Hank, a coalition of family and supporters of Skinner, delivered 16,000 signatures (more than half of which stemming from Texans voters) to Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer, urging her to reconsider her position in this case and to grant Mr. Skinner the DNA testing he has been seeking for a decade. There has been no reaction from Ms. Switzer’s office.
In a declaration under oath, filed on July 21, 2011, Gray County D.A. Lynn Switzer stated:
“…At least some of the evidence that Skinner seeks for testing still exists and is in my custody, such as Twila Busby’s vaginal swabs and fingernail clippings. That evidence is either at GeneScreen or in the evidence locker at the Gray County Sheriff’s Department. I have not sought expert opinion on that question…” 
Ms. Switzer clearly confirms that the chain of custody she is responsible for has not been maintained and she also admits to be in possession of only two pieces of evidence. As for the rest of the evidence, she does not know where it is located or whether it still exists.
Less than 7 days later, on July 27, 2011, the sentencing judge, Judge Emmert, signed a new death warrant for November 9, 2011, although the courts had to be fully aware that Mr. Skinner’s attorneys would file a new DNA motion as soon SB 122 became applicable.
On November 2, without any explanation, Judge Emmert denied the new motion for DNA testing. This decision is currently on appeal with the Court of Criminal Appeals in Austin.
Immediately after, more than 85,000 added their names on a new petition asking Governor Perry to withdraw the execution warrant and to grant DNA testing to Mr. Skinner.
In May 2011, the Texas legislators approved new standards for crime labs, compensation for the exonerated and revised statutes for post-conviction DNA. Gov. Perry signed those bills into law to improve and scrutinize a criminal justice system in need of reform. Considering that DNA testing has exonerated 275 prisoners in the United-States since 1989, including 43 in Texas, the overwhelming vote, both in the House and the Senate, in favor of the revised post-conviction DNA statute certainly was a welcome addition to the ongoing reforms Gov. Perry is promoting.

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.

Live signature totals from Justice4Hank’s campaign: http://chn.ge/HankSkinner
Timeline:
All legal documents quoted below are available in the “Legal Documents” section of the website at http://www.hankskinner.org
  • 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.

25 Death Row Exonerees to Lead 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol Saturday, October 22, 2011

The 12th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty will be held Saturday, October 22nd, 2011 at the Texas Capitol at 2 PM (on the north side of the capitol).  A rally will begin at 2 PM followed by a march through the streets of downtown Austin at 3.

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.


“Many people at the rally and march will carry signs that say “Perry/Willingham 2012″ to suggest that if Rick Perry becomes president of the U.S., it will be over the dead body of a person whose execution Perry allowed even though he was given information before the execution discrediting the forensic science used to convict Todd Willingham. After Willingham’s execution, Perry abused his power as governor to interfere with the investigation of a governmental body into the Willingham case. Rick Perry’s actions regarding Todd Willingham raise serious questions about Perry’s character and judgement. Perry is not ethically qualified to be president of the United States”, said Scott Cobb, president of Texas Moratorium Network.

The signs marchers will carry can be seen at the following link:


Before his execution, Todd Willingham told his parents,“Please don’t ever stop fighting to vindicate me.”

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. 

A recent CNN poll showed that when given a choice of sentences between life in prison without parole or the death penalty for the crime of murder, more Americans (50%) would opt for the life sentence than for death (48%). 


“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!

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