The state district court with authority over the Hank Skinner case has withdrawn the February 24th execution date. The court reset the execution date for March 24th. The order is here, in Adobe .pdf format.
Skinner's attorneys issued the following statement:
We are dismayed that the court chose, in the same order, to re-schedule Mr. Skinner's execution for March 24. This unseemly haste to execute Mr. Skinner
ignores the growing public concern and outcry over the unanswered questions about Mr. Skinner's guilt. Now, more than ever, DNA testing is necessary to resolve those doubts.
Setting a March 24 execution date also means that Mr. Skinner's pending lawsuit against the Gray County District Attorney in the United States Supreme Court, seeking the much-needed DNA testing, must now be resolved under needless and entirely artificial time pressures. Given that the District Attorney stands to benefit directly from that undue haste, it is especially disappointing that the court chose to press forward with Mr. Skinner's execution on March 24.
In addition, there is a very serious legal question whether the trial court even has the authority to set an execution date for someone, like Mr. Skinner, whosepost -conviction challenges to his conviction and death sentence have never been heard by the Texas courts.
We remain committed to obtaining the DNA testing our client says will prove his innocence, and will take every available legal step to that end."
Rob Owen, Co-Director of the Capital Punishment Center at the University of Texas at Austin School of Law, is one of the lawyers on Hank Skinner's legal team.
The AP report is, "Texas inmate set to die next week wins reprieve," by Michael Graczyk is via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
State District Judge Steven Emmert on Tuesday reset Skinner's date to March 24 to resolve what lawyers said was a timing problem with the original death warrant.
The judge said the paperwork was not completed properly within 10 days of when he signed the warrant last November and Skinner's attorneys had filed a motion to have the warrant dissolved.
"I figured the safest bet was to back up and start over," Emmert said Wednesday.
Skinner has maintained his innocence and is trying to get new DNA testing on some crime scene evidence he says could exonerate him. Courts have refused similar requests over the years and he now has petitions before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Skinner's lead attorney, Rob Owen, said he was "dismayed" the punishment had been reset and not just halted.
"This unseemly haste to execute Mr. Skinner ignores the growing public concern and outcry over the unanswered questions about Mr. Skinner's guilt," Owen said. "Now, more than ever, DNA testing is necessary to resolve those doubts."
Skinner contends the likely killer is a relative of Busby who has since died.
The trial judge who initially decided Hank Skinner would die Feb. 24 — one week from today — has pushed the execution date back to March 24, says Skinner attorney Rob Owen, co-director of the University of Texas at Austin’s Capital Punishment Clinic.
Skinner was convicted in 1995 of strangling and bludgeoning to death his girlfriend and stabbing to death her two sons. Skinner has always professed his innocence. He admits to having been in the house at the time of the murders, but toxicology tests verify that he was so inebriated from vodka and codeine that he was nearly comatose at the time of the murders. Skinner and his lawyers argue that DNA evidence found at the scene of the crime could exonerate him. Texas courts, though, have refused to allow the testing.
The state has DNA evidence from a rape kit and fingernail clippings collected from Twila Busby, the murdered girlfriend. They also have blood from knives found at the scene and hair and sweat from a man's windbreaker. Those items have never been tested.
Late last week, Skinner and his attorneys took their request to the U.S. Supreme Court. They asked the nation's highest court to force the state to allow the DNA testing and to stay Skinner's execution until the testing results are analyzed.You can look at the order here.
Michael Landauer also post the statement from Skinner's attorney on the Dallas Morning News Death Penalty blog, "Delay for Skinner execution, but that's all?"
Earlier coverage of the case begins with this post from earlier today.
The motion for post-conviction DNA testing is referred to as a Chapter 64 motion; the law is Chapter 64 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.