Thursday, October 27, 2011


"Executing Mr. Skinner without testing all therelevant evidence would suggest official indifference to the possibility of error in this case and needlessly undermine public confidence in Texas’s criminal justice system."


PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The American Civil Liberties association warns in its "Blog of Rights" that:

"If prosecutors don’t change course, on November 9th Hank Skinner could be the 476th person executed by the State of Texas since 1976. Problem is, Skinner, like Troy Davis, may well be innocent, and Texas prosecutors have so far blocked DNA testing of evidence that could prove it.

In March, over the objection of prosecutors, the United States Supreme Court cleared the way for Skinner to bring a federal civil rights lawsuit to compel DNA testing of the untested evidence. Even though that litigation remains pending and unresolved, prosecutors have obtained an execution date for Skinner and appear poised to execute him before the court rules on his claim.

The prosecutors’ stubborn combination of refusing to allow this DNA testing and insisting that the execution go forward is unconscionable.

A letter today from prominent Texas officials including a former governor, a former criminal appeals judge, former district attorneys and current Texas legislators, eloquently spelled out why the testing should be done before Skinner’s execution date:

Executing Mr. Skinner without testing all the relevant evidence would suggest official indifference to the possibility of error in this case and needlessly undermine public confidence in Texas’s criminal justice system.

We would add that testing this evidence is necessary to make sure another innocent man is not executed this year. Is that too much to ask?"


The letter:

October 27, 2011 The Honorable Rick Perry Governor of Texas 1100 San Jacinto Street, Suite 412 Austin, TX 78701 The Honorable Greg Abbott Attorney General of Texas 300 W. 15th Street Austin, TX 78701 The Honorable Lynn Switzer District Attorney, 31st Judicial District of Texas 205 N. Russell Street, Suite 413 Pampa, TX 79065

Dear Governor Perry, Attorney General Abbott and District Attorney Switzer, We, the undersigned current and former elected officials and former prosecutors and judges, write to urge you to test the untested DNA evidence in the Hank Skinner case before proceeding with his execution, presently set for November 9.

We are all Texans, and we have great respect for each of you and the offices you hold. At the
same time, we all also share grave and growing concerns about the State’s stubborn refusal to date to test all the evidence in the Skinner case. Executing Mr. Skinner without testing all the relevant evidence would suggest official indifference to the possibility of error in this case and needlessly undermine public confidence in Texas’s criminal justice system.

We believe that the death penalty is an appropriate punishment for certain crimes, and we understand that the DNA testing might well show that Mr. Skinner is deserving of that punishment. But we are also steadfast in our belief that when it comes to the ultimate penalty, we must do everything in our power to ensure certainty before taking the irreversible step of carrying out an execution.

We are not alone in this view. There is widespread public support in
Texas for using DNA testing, whenever it is available, to ensure the greatest possible accuracy in our criminal justice system.

As you all know, in May the Legislature enacted reforms to Texas’s
post-conviction DNA testing law precisely to eliminate procedural barriers that in some cases – like Mr. Skinner’s – had gotten in the way of the search for the truth.

That legislation passed
with overwhelming bipartisan support, not least because polls show that eighty-five percent of Texans agree that prisoners should have broad access to DNA testing.

Testing the DNA evidence in Mr. Skinner’s case is not only common sense, it is a public safety issue of great consequence.

This month’s exoneration of Michael Morton, after 25 years of
wrongful imprisonment, highlights why state officials should consent to DNA testing when untested evidence is available.

In Mr. Morton’s case, the DNA testing not only proved his
innocence, but identified the true perpetrator of the crime. In many cases, there is no DNA evidence available to be tested.

That is not true in Mr. Skinner's
case. Indeed, there are multiple pieces of key untested evidence found at the crime scene, including a blood- and sweat-stained windbreaker jacket similar to one regularly worn by an alternative suspect; two knives, at least one of which was a likely murder weapon; a bloody towel; the victim’s fingernail clippings, which may have the perpetrator’s blood under them; and swabs from a sexual assault examination kit.

There is simply no justifiable reason why Texas continues to waste taxpayer dollars in its decade-long fight to prevent scientific testing in Mr. Skinner’s case.

We implore you to take the
lead in the search for truth in this case. Test the DNA evidence before moving forward with Mr. Skinner’s execution.

If that requires a brief reprieve of Mr. Skinner’s scheduled November 9
execution, that short delay will be a small price to pay to maintain public confidence in Texas’s criminal justice system.

Jim Dunnam, Texas State Representative, District 57, 1997-2011; Senior Fellow, Texas First Foundation Rodney Ellis, Texas Senator, District 13, 1990 – present James A. Fry, James Fry P.C. 1982-present; Assistant District Attorney, Dallas County, Texas, 1980-1982; Former Chairman, Texas State Bar Grievance Committee Pete P. Gallego, Texas State Representative, District 74, 1991-present Carlos Garcia, Assistant District Attorney, Starr County, Texas, 1989-1991 Assistant District Attorney, Travis County, Texas, 1991-1995 Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa, Texas State Senator, District 20, 2002-present Norman E. Lanford, Judge, 339th District Court, 1985 – 1992, Visiting Judge, 1992 - 1997 Kenneth J. Mighell, United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas (1977-1981); Assistant United States Attorney, Northern District of Texas (1961-1977) Sam D. Millsap, Jr., District Attorney, Bexar County, San Antonio, Texas, 1983-1987 Joanne Musick, Assistant District Attorney, Harris County, 1998 – 2003 Earl D. Musick, Houston Police Dept., 1966-1999 (retired as lieutenant) Assistant District Attorney, Harris County Police Department, 1999-2003 Michol O’Connor, Justice, Court of Appeals, First District of Texas, 1988-2000; Assistant U.S. Attorney, Southern District of Texas, 1975-1978 Wendell A. Odom, Jr., Assistant District Attorney, Harris County, Texas, 1974-1978 Assistant United States Attorney, Southern District of Texas, 1978-1982 Morris L. Overstreet, Judge, Texas Court of Criminal Appeals, 1990-1998; Assistant District Attorney, Potter County, 1975-1980 Nat C. Perez, Jr., Brownsville Police Department, 1980 - 1989; Air Force Military Policeman, 1976-1980 Eddie Rodriguez, Texas State Representative, District 51, 2003-present Mark White, Chairman, Geovox Security, Inc.; Governor of Texas, 1983-1987; Attorney General of Texas, 1979-1983; Secretary of State of Texas, 1973-1977; Partner, Reynolds, White Allen & Cook, 1969-1973; Assistant Attorney General of Texas, 1965-1969

PUBLISHER'S NOTE: The Toronto Star, my previous employer for more than twenty incredible years, has put considerable effort into exposing the harm caused by Dr. Charles Smith and his protectors - and into pushing for reform of Ontario's forensic pediatric pathology system. The Star has a "topic" section which focuses on recent stories related to Dr. Charles Smith. It can be found at:

Information on "The Charles Smith Blog Award"- and its nomination process - can be found at:

Harold Levy: Publisher; The Charles Smith Blog;;