Execution cancelled during inmate's last meal
DEATH-ROW inmate Hank Skinner was slowly chewing his way through the enormous cheeseburger that was supposed to be his last supper when good news arrived: he'd no longer be forced to digest the artery-clogging meal in an executioner's chair.
The US Supreme Court intervened late on Wednesday to prevent a lethal injection from being given to the convicted murderer, saying it wanted more time to consider his appeal. "I'd made up my mind that I was going to die," the condemned man told guards. "I really feel like I won today."
Skinner has always maintained his innocence in the murder of his girlfriend Twila Busby and her two adult sons at their home in Texas on New Year's Eve 1993, and that the real killer was the victim's uncle. To prove his version of events, he wants key crime-scene evidence to be DNA tested.
Even though the execution has been stayed, there is no guarantee that the Supreme Court will authorise the tests -- the justices merely want more time to study his appeal.
In the meantime, Skinner remains on death row at the Walls unit in Huntsville, Texas.
At his trial, in 1995, Skinner's defence lawyer failed to have most of the evidence from the scene, including a rape kit, several biological samples, and the alleged murder weapons DNA tested.
Doubt began being cast on Skinner's guilt in 2000, when a group of students from the David Protess Medill Innocence Project at Northwestern University, who have been responsible for the exoneration of 11 other convicted criminals, including five on death row, came to Texas to investigate his case. They interviewed Andrea Reed, a witness who had told the court Skinner had confessed to the crime; she recanted her evidence. They also discovered Busby's uncle, Robert Donnell, had a history of sexual violence and had made advances towards the victim that night.
It ought to be relatively easy to establish if Donnell, rather than Skinner, fought with Busby in the moments before her murder: scientists would merely have to analyse flesh samples taken from beneath her fingernails, and blood found on the weapon. (Independent News Service)