The U.S. Supreme Court has re-scheduled Hank Skinner’s case for private conference on April 23rd, so there “should” be a decision by Monday April 26th.

If the Court does accept Skinner’s writ, oral arguments would likely take place in the fall of 2010. If they do not accept to hear his petition, a new execution date could be set in 30 days.

The question before the court is what legal process prisoners can use when seeking DNA testing. In Texas the courts have ruled that those seeking DNA testing must ask for it in their Habeas petition, which is most unlikely to be granted by the courts governing Texas death row.

Skinner filed a civil law suit after the Gray County District Attorney in Pampa, Texas, after he requested she release the DNA evidence so he could have it tested. He was willing to pay for the testing—all he needed was the evidence. She refused and he took it to civil court. Since then, a testing lab in Arizona offered to do the testing and have results to Gov. Rick Perry in 30 days.

If Skinner wins—and the Supreme Court rules that he can use civil rights law to obtain DNA evidence—it would open the door for many other prisoners to obtain post-conviction DNA testing.

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