Attorneys for Hank Skinner issued a "Statement at the Close of the Evidentiary Hearing Regarding DNA Test Results." Skinner is represented by Robert C. Owen of the Bluhm Legal Clinic at Northwestern University Law School and Douglas G. Robinson of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom LLP.
Here's the full text:
“The State has not presented any dramatic new evidence confirming Mr. Skinner’s guilt. On the contrary: the testimony confirmed DNA from an unknown person, along with Twila Busby’s blood, on a dishtowel that had been secreted in a plastic garbage bag at the crime scene. Moreover, the DNA test results were at odds with the State’s theory of the crime. If Mr. Skinner stabbed Randy Busby in the manner claimed by the State, Mr. Skinner’s blood should have been on the blanket of Randy’s bed. It was not. If Mr. Skinner’s hands were covered with the victims’ blood when he staggered out of the house, their blood should have been mixed with his on the doorknobs he touched. It was not. And Mr. Skinner’s DNA on the common kitchen knife used in the crimes could have come from his innocently using it as a resident of the house and being cut with it by the assailant.
“Furthermore, the DNA testing produced significant and exculpatory results that raise grave doubts about Mr. Skinner’s guilt and point to an alternate suspect. The State’s expert analyst did not retreat from his conclusion that three of the four hairs found in Twila Busby’s hand – hairs with DNA consistent with a maternal relative of the victims – were “visually dissimilar” to the victims’ own hair, and indeed confirmed that the differences were so obvious that he could see them without using a microscope. This result supports the conclusion that a maternal relative of the victims committed the crimes, not Mr. Skinner. Robert Donnell, who is Ms. Busby’s maternal uncle, was seen stalking Ms. Busby at a party shortly before her death, and the State presented no compelling evidence that the hairs could have come from another maternal relative. In fact, Ms. Busby’s mother stated under oath before Mr. Skinner’s trial that she had not been inside the house in the preceding four months.
“A major piece of evidence, which the State claims it lost, could have corroborated the hair evidence pointing to Mr. Donnell. But no DNA testing will be performed on perhaps the key piece of evidence collected by the police at the crime scene: the sweat-stained, blood-spattered men's windbreaker jacket found next to Ms. Busby’s body. From the earliest days of his fight for DNA testing, Mr. Skinner has insisted that this jacket should be tested because it may have been worn by the assailant.
“At the DNA hearing, Mr. Skinner sought to present testimony from a witness who can positively identify the jacket as Donnell’s, and to have his DNA expert explain how testing could have confirmed Donnell’s DNA on the jacket. The State fought to keep this evidence out of the record, and the court agreed with the State and excluded it. We respectfully disagree with this decision. In our view, this evidence is at the center of the case. It shows why a jury that heard all the evidence, including DNA results, would have harbored a reasonable doubt about Mr. Skinner’s guilt.
“Excluding evidence about the jacket simply added to the overall unfairness of this process, in which Mr. Skinner was wrongly forced to wait thirteen years before obtaining DNA testing. In the meantime, through bungling by the State, the evidence was being mishandled, damaged, contaminated, degraded, and lost.
“The doubts about Hank Skinner’s guilt are far too great to allow his execution to proceed, particularly where the State’s utter failure to safeguard key pieces of evidence may make it impossible to resolve those questions conclusively.”
The Texas Tribune coverage is, "DNA Hearing Brings Skinner Case Closer to Resolution," by Brandi Grissom.
Two days of painstakingly detailed testimony about DNA analysis have brought the 20-year-old case against death row inmate Hank Skinner closer to resolution.
DNA analysts for Skinner and for state prosecutors from the Texas attorney general’s office spent Monday and Tuesday in the historic Gray County Courthouse explaining to state district Judge Steven Emmert the significance of more than 180 tests on about 40 items of evidence from a 1993 New Year’s Eve triple murder. Prosecutors argued that the tests only confirmed Skinner’s guilt, while lawyers for the 51-year-old defendant said the results raised enough questions about the identity of the perpetrator that a jury would not have condemned him to death.
"Does DNA Testing Prove Skinner's Guilt?" by Jordan Smith at the Austin Chronicle.
Had the state of Texas actually safeguarded and properly preserved evidence collected as part of the investigation into the 1993 slaying in Pampa of Twila Busby and her two grown sons, Elwin and Randy, it is unlikely that questions would linger about who is responsible for the brutal and bloody crime.
But the state lost a key piece of evidence in the case – a sweat and blood-stained windbreaker found near Busby's body in the home she shared with her two sons and her boyfriend, Hank Skinner. And it failed also to properly package and store additional evidence, making DNA testing on an array of items impossible, according to Skinner's defense team.
Skinner was sentenced to die for the New Year's Eve 1993 triple murder. He has maintained his innocence and said that he was passed out on a combination of booze and pills at the time of the crime, awoke to find that the family had been slaughtered and cut his hand on a shard of glass before fleeing the home.
"Skinner's attorneys: state didn't present evidence to confirm death row inmate's guilt," is the AP filing, via the Greenfield Reporter.
The judge will rule once he has considered written arguments submitted by each side.
"Texas death row inmate pins hopes on DNA evidence," by AFP, via GlobalPost.
In a two-day hearing that ended Tuesday, his lawyer Robert Owen said "the DNA testing produced significant and exculpatory results that raise grave doubts about Mr. Skinner's guilt and point to an alternate suspect".
Four hairs were found in the hand of Busby at the time of her murder. The DNA tests show that in three of them there was a maternal link between the person the strands of hair came from and the three victims, the lawyer said in a statement.
An expert witness for the state testified that the hairs could not come from the victims themselves because their hair was "visually dissimilar".
The defense lawyer pointed to a maternal uncle of Busby, the late Robert Donnell. He was seen stalking Busby an hour before the killings and showed no remorse upon learning of the death of his niece, said Owen.
"Testimony ends in Hank Skinner's DNA hearing," by Jim McBride in the Amarillo Globe-News.
The hearing focused on whether it is “reasonably probable” that Skinner, now 51, would have been acquitted if all DNA evidence in the case had been presented at his 1995 trial, according to court records.
Skinner was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to die in the slayings of Twila Jean Busby, 40, and her sons — 22- year-old Elwin “Scooter” Caler and 20-year-old Randy Busby.
Skinner has claimed he was too intoxicated to have slain the Busbys because he drank vodka and took codeine on the night of the killings.
After the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals halted Skinner’s execution three times due to changing post-conviction law, prosecutors agreed to allow DNA testing, and both sides now have received the results.
"Consistency important with DNA evidence," by Dennis Palmitier and Timothy P. Howsare for the Pampa News.
Using exhibits from Hank Skinner’s own defense team, Assistant Attorney General Georgette Oden showed that Skinner’s DNA was a consistent match throughout the house of murder victim Twila Busby.
From 9 a.m. until a lunch recess at 1:25 p.m. Tuesday, Oden meticulously questioned Brent Hester, a DNA specialist from the Texas Department of Safety Crime Lab in Lubbock, on results of samples taken from the crime scene in 1994 and then retested by DPS in 2012.
The defense, in earlier testimony by their expert, Dr. Julie Heinig, had pointed out what they believed were inconsistencies with DNA matching.
New tests on one of the murder weapons, a kitchen utility knife, showed a DNA consistency matching Skinner’s and Busby’s two sons, who were also murdered on Dec. 31, 1993.
Another contention by the defense was why a quarter-inch blood stain on the carpet in the sons’ bedroom was not tested.
Earlier coverage of the two-day hearing begins at the link.