Access to DNA evidence

October 11, 2010
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When it’s a matter of life or death, wouldn’t you want to be sure – really sure – that you had convicted the correct person of murder? Especially when that person has been sentenced to die for the crime?

One of the Indianapolis news stations ran a short story about the Texas case, Skinner v. Switzer, No. 09-9000, which the Supreme Court of the United States will hear Wednesday. Skinner’s on Texas’ death row and the nation’s highest court stopped his execution earlier this year to take a look at his case.

The issue – if Skinner can sue in a civil rights claim to get access to DNA evidence for testing or whether this can only be asserted in a petition for writ of habeas corpus.

The news piece said Skinner had been convicted in 1995 of killing his girlfriend and her two adult sons. He always maintained his innocence and wants DNA tests done on the blood and other biological evidence found at the crime scene. According to his brief before the court, only the blood stains on his clothes were tested.

The argument against letting him have access to the evidence for testing is that he had the chance to have it tested at trial, but didn’t do so, and he didn’t meet a key requirement – sufficient evidence to prove his innocence – to be eligible for additional testing under Texas law. There’s also the belief that last year’s SCOTUS ruling in Osborne prevents Skinner’s attempt at testing the evidence. In Osborne, a 5-4 court ruled the man had no right to pay for a DNA test to prove his innocence and allowing him to do so would risk overthrowing the established system of criminal justice.

I was confused when Osborne came down and I’m still puzzled as to why our court system wouldn’t want to make sure that they’ve got the right person when it comes to people on death row? Maybe it’s because I’m not a lawyer and don’t know all the procedures when it comes to DNA testing. Perhaps someone reading this blog can help me understand, but if the evidence exists, and it’s not going to cost the state anything to test it, why not do it to be sure? We read cases all the time of people who sat in prison for years only to be exonerated later on. See today’s daily for an example of that. Why not allow Skinner the chance for testing?

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  1. Thanks for this article. We live in Evansville, IN and are aware of how bad the child abuse is here. Can you please send us the statistics for here in Vanderburgh, County. Our web site is: www.ritualabusefree.org Thanks again

  2. This ruling has no application to Indiana. The tail end of the article is misleading where it states criminal penalties await those who refuse a test. This is false. An administrative license suspension is what awaits you. No more, no less.

  3. Yellow journalism much??? "The outcome underscores that the direction of U.S. immigration policy will be determined in large part by this fall's presidential election, a campaign in which immigration already has played an outsized role." OUTSIZED? by whose standards? Also this: "In either case, legal challenges to executive action under her administration would come to a court that would have a majority of Democratic-appointed justices and, in all likelihood, give efforts to help immigrants a friendlier reception." Ah, also, did you forget an adjective at the *** marks ahead by any chance? Thinking of one that rhymes with bald eagle? " In either case, legal challenges to executive action under her administration would come to a court that would have a majority of Democratic-appointed justices and, in all likelihood, give efforts to help *** immigrants a friendlier reception."

  4. Definition of furnish. : to provide (a room or building) with furniture. : to supply or give (something) to someone or something. : to supply or give to (someone) something that is needed or wanted. Judge Kincaid: if furnish means provide, and the constitution says the provider in a uni is the township, how on earth are they seperated??

  5. I never filed a law suite. I had no money for a lawyer. In 2010 I presented for MRI/with contrast. The technician stuck my left arm three times with needle to inject dye. I was w/out O2 for two minutes, not breathing, no ambulance was called. I suffered an Embolism ,Myocardia infarction. Permanent memory loss, heart damage. After the event, I could not remember what I did five seconds earlier. I had no-one to help me. I lost my dental hygiene career, been homeless, etc.

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