Monday, March 15, 2010

Bloody Texas

While reviewing each of the 451 executions in Texas since 1976, I stumbled across some evidence I believe has substantial bearing on Hank Skinner’s case. It relates to the State’s position on the significance of a high blood alcohol level.

In the trial of Texas v. Granville Riddle, November 1989, the defense claimed self defense. Texas pointed out the victim had a blood alcohol level of 0.29 and was therefore incapable of mounting an attack. Granville Riddle was convicted and executed.

In the trial of Texas v. James Moreland, July 1983, the defense claimed self defense. Texas pointed out that one victim had a blood alcohol level of 0.24, the other had a blood alcohol level of 0.19, and that both must have been sleeping at the time they were killed. James Moreland was convicted and executed.

In the trial of Texas v. Hank Skinner, March 1995, the defense introduced evidence that Hank Skinner had a blood alcohol content of 0.24 plus a codeine level three times the normal medicinal value. They argued further that the alcohol and codeine were synergistic, their combined effect being worse than the sum of their individual effects. The defense then argued, just as Texas had three times earlier, that such a high blood alcohol content would render a person incapable of aggressive action.

Texas did not dispute the toxicology evidence. Instead they simply pooh-poohed it. Skinner was a heavy drinker they claimed (supposedly unlike the three people just mentioned with similar alcohol levels) and was therefore insensitive to alcohol. Hank Skinner was convicted and will soon be executed.

This seems to be just more evidence that Texas does not really care if Hank Skinner is factually innocent. They did a 180 on the significance of a 0.24 blood alcohol level, with nothing more than the flick of a wrist. Though they acknowledge that the hand print on the trash bag, the one holding the bloody knife and dish towel, was not left there by Skinner, they refuse to run that print through their fingerprint data base. It would take but a few minutes, but still they refuse.

They lied about and then ignored the post-conviction DNA test results they requested. They treat as insignificant the hair found clutched in Twila Busby’s dead hand, a hair they themselves claimed came from the killer, a hair now proven not to have come from Hank Skinner.

They hide the DNA results from the rape kit and broken fingernail clippings they sent out for testing.

They refuse to release the murder weapons for DNA testing, even though others have volunteered to cover the cost.

They refuse to release the foreign windbreaker for DNA testing, though it is a gold mine of hairs, blood, and sweat samples.

The State of Texas will probably execute Hank Skinner as scheduled, but Hank Skinner will not go away. He will join the growing list of people probably innocent but certainly executed by Texas. Texas and Governor Rick Perry will execute him despite the many cogent cautions they have been given. 

It will be a dark day indeed for Texas.

I do not think Hank Skinner's execution will prevent Rick Perry from being re-elected governor. I do predict, however, that it will thwart him during the next logical step of his political career.

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