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March 25, 2010

Death penalty doings at SCOTUS

Through fewer cert grants in capital cases, the Supreme Court in the last few Terms has stopped being the center of all discussion and debate over the death penalty.  However, as detailed in this two SCOTUSblog posts, yesterday the Justices were back to their death penalty ways:

How Appealing also collects media coverage of these SCOTUS happenings here.

March 25, 2010 at 09:02 AM | Permalink


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A serious question for the prosecutors here about Skinner's case:

Presuming it is true that only certain DNA was tested, but not arguably the most crucial (esp. hairs in Busby's hand, two knives at the crime scene, and vaginal swabs), why wouldn't you want to allow DNA testing? (Especially given that Skinner has sought testing on those items for ten years.) I've never handled a murder case, but I couldn't imagine sending a man to the death chamber when possible conclusive evidence of innocence remains untested.

Put another way--I don't see what all the fuss is about in this case. Swab, check, and either release him or schedule an execution date depending upon the results.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 25, 2010 10:38:05 AM

This guy could have had these things tested at trial--he chose not to. There's a blood trail that led to him hiding. He's guilty as sin. The Supreme Court should have followed its own precedent and denied the stay. This is an affront to the Texas criminal justice system.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 25, 2010 10:47:20 AM

Should we risk killing an innocent person because his attorney (a former prosecutor) failed to conduct DNA tests in 1995, even though the testing we have today is more advanced?

I can't understand why the state wouldn't want to do the testing, especially when -- as in this case -- a lab has offered to do it for free. When: a) there is evidence that someone else may have committed the murder, b) there is evidence that the one convicted of it may have been physically incapable of committing the murders, c) there is evidence that could show the convicted individual's innocence, and d) there is no cost to the state to test that evidence, THEN there is absolutely no reason to not do the testing.

Oh wait, well, he didn't do the testing in 1995. Yeah, that's a good reason to kill an innocent person.

Posted by: DEJ | Mar 25, 2010 11:31:23 AM

This is a very weak innocence claim. He should have brought it much earlier in the process. He chose not to. That tells you something. If the Supreme Court would enforce its own rules about last-minute stay applications, we'd probably see a lot more diligence, and the very few people that are factually innocent would be released much earlier.

But instead, we have this nonsense.

Posted by: federalist | Mar 25, 2010 11:42:42 AM

And there's always the Kevin Cooper scenario to worry about . . . .

Posted by: federalist | Mar 25, 2010 11:55:19 AM

federalist--he's been trying to get those same items DNA tested for 10 years in the Texas state courts. This is a last minute appeal because of the state's obstinence, not because Skinner was sandbagging.

Posted by: Res ipsa | Mar 25, 2010 1:38:25 PM

The death penalty is fraught with politics here in the belt buckle of the Bible-belt. If the DNA shows that Skinner didn't do it, such a development will provide more fodder for the "we've executed an innocent" crowd--which is most likely what the Willingham case will ultimately show. Gov. Perry has so far been able to delay the forensic science commission's examination of the Willingham case by appointing a rabid and political prosecutor/crony as the chairman. Skinner's innocence increases the temperature on the Willingham review. Gov. Perry has national aspirations, and any tarnish on his machinery of death here at death penalty central will inflict yet another blemish on his Teabag-lite credentials. His base loves them a good killin', and technicalities like actual innocence shouldn't be able to interfere with that desire here in the Lone Star State.

Posted by: Mark # 1 | Mar 25, 2010 2:21:54 PM

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