Friday, March 26, 2010

Meet Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner

I don't claim to know Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner. I have never met her. We have communicated only in a pair of very brief emails. I am, however, aware of her cogent and unfettered defense of her husband. I figure it appropriate, therefore, that you learn of her through her words.  First, I submit  for your consideration the biographical portion of a letter she sent to the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles.

My name is Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner, I am a 49-year old French national. I am a freelance production manager working for the film industry on feature films, commercials and documentaries. My work experience has given me the opportunity to work on numerous pictures for major studios in Hollywood over the past 21 years. I am the mother of a 22-year old daughter who is currently in Medical School in Paris, France.
My first contact with Hank Skinner was in the spring of 1996, when we started to write each other, and I began to visit him in 2000. From then on we visited on a very regular basis and I purposely took short work contracts which enabled me to be available to travel and stay in Texas; usually four times a year for 6 to 8 weeks each time.

Through our prolific correspondence and conversations during our visits, I began to dissect his case. Hank never kept documents away from me, even if some of them may not have played in his favor. Over all those years, he has consistently been transparently honest about his background and his errors in life.

We got married on October 3rd, 2008 firstly because we do love each other dearly and want to be together, but originally, when we discussed or raised the issue of marriage, we decided to keep this celebration as something to look forward to after his exoneration and release. However, in 2008, when the appellate courts began to seriously undermine the value of his claims, we felt it would be appropriate to get married then, and so we did. We are in fact married both under American and French law. I had never been married before, and this decision to make official the commitment we had already made to each other many years ago was truthful, honest and representative of our respective feelings.

If you wish to see the entire document, visit the Hank Skinner web site. (The site makes linking to an individual document difficult. Once you arrive on the home screen, select "The Case of Hank Skinner", then select "Legal Documents", then select "Letter by Sandrine Ageorges-Skinner.")

To provide some sense of how well Sandrine handles herself during a public defense of her husband, I included her clips from the Larry King show last Wednesday night, where she was one of six guests, all hooked in remotely, being asked about Hank Skinner. Larry flubs it initially by referring to her as Hank Skinner's widow. Let's pick it up from that point. He asks her how they met.

We met on -- when he was on death row. I -- I started getting involved with a very unique organization that was set up by death row inmates in Texas. And it was run from death row at a time when they were not in isolation. It was called The Lamp of Hope. And I started translating their newsletter. And a friend of mine said to me, well, you know, if you want to correspond, I think there's two or three people you would get on with. And Hank was one of them. And that was in 1996.

King asks why she would marry someone on death row.
 
It's a very long story. The marriage is really part of our personal life. I've been a long time abolitionist, long before I met Hank. And I will be long after, if he has -- if he is to be executed. The reason we did marry, first of all, is because we love each other. And it's because I wanted to carry his name. We felt that if he was going to be executed, I would fight to get the DNA testing done, to preserve the evidence, to clear his name, to get to the truth, which, at the moment, we are nowhere near.

King asks how can she be sure Hank didn't do it.

Well, I think, unfortunately, a number of media have totally misrepresented his case. It's not what he is saying or what I'm saying. The facts of the case exist to prove that the little that was tested prior to trial excluded him. The little that was tested, thanks to David Protess, during the evidence -- the first conviction appeals, exclude him. And that it is just mind-boggling that evidence preserved from the crime scene, 15 years later, including the murder weapons, a rape kit, nail clippings from the victim,  one of the victims, a male jacket that doesn't fit his size at all with sweat, hair, DNA, to this day, is not tested.

I mean it's just -- I'm convinced of his innocence not because I love him and he's my husband, I'm convinced of his innocence also because beside the DNA issue, there is scientific forensic evidence to prove that he was not even in a state to stand up at the time of the crime, let alone murder three people that he loved.

There is absolutely no motive. At the trial, the only thing...
King tries to move on to someone else, but Sandrine finishes her thought.

... that got him sentenced to death was a state witness that -- who was threatened very seriously and recanted two years later and explained how she was threatened and, you know, withdrew her testimony at trial. That was the only thing that got him sentenced to death.


King then looks into the camera and says: "For the record, by the way, the district attorney's office involved in this case, and the governor's office, is not commenting. No one wants to see an innocent man convicted, of course." From off-camera, you can very clearly hear Sandrine say:

Of course!

Larry was surprised by that, and it disrupted his pattern just a bit. At first I thought Sandrine was being sarcastic about Rick Perry and Lynn Switzer refusing to comment. Now I see it's possible she was being sarcastic about no one wanting to see an innocent man convicted. 

I can't even swear she was being sarcastic. I am sure, however, that she stole that moment from Larry.

She was, however, very patient. She waited her turn, allowed others to speak ill of her husband without interrupting. That made her "Of course!" comment even more noticeable.

King did get back to her near the end of the one-half hour segment for another question. He asked if she thought the Supreme Court "will decide whether DNA could be used." So far, everyone who mentioned the Supreme Court confused, or at least failed to clairify, what the Supreme Court had just ruled. (Apparently none of them had taken the trouble to read my penetrating legal exposition.)  It took Sandrine, a French national, to explain to everyone what the United States Supreme Court had just ruled.

Well, actually, the question before the Supreme Court is not whether the DNA should be used in his case. The question as to the Supreme Court at the moment is whether first conviction and first conviction appeal process, you can go through a civil process or the habeas process only. In certain states, you can use the civil process. In other states, you can only use the habeas process.

King can be heard off camera: "Oh."
 
Hank has been denied DNA testing through the habeas process. His attorneys filed a complaint against the current Gray County D.A. because she's refusing to release the evidence to this current attorney for private testing. Let's not forget that for 15 years, the defense has asked for DNA testing -- privately funded DNA testing. It's not going to cost the state anything.

King tries to cut her off:  "All right..."  It doesn't work, though. Sandrine has waited patiently for fifteen minutes or so, and she is now going to finish her thought.
 
Why would Hank be searching and asking for DNA testing for so long if he's guilty?

And I would like to add one thing that you said that is absolutely incomplete regarding the bloodstains on his clothes. The police report -- the only police report states clearly that these are contact stains, they are not blood splatter. And they exclude him as the assailant. And it's an important point and I think it needs to be mentioned.

Then King wraps it up by saying "What a -- what a puzzling, puzzling thing." I think actually that's not a bad wrap up line. Unfortunately, when he comes back from commercial, the severity of the Hank Skinner situation is punctuated by an announcement of who will be appearing on the next few shows. "Ryan Seacrest tomorrow night, Snoop Dogg on Friday."

I'm sorry, it makes me laugh (in a sad sort of way) even now.

tsj
26 Mar 2010

3 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sandrine will be one of the speakers at the 11th Annual March to Abolish the Death Penalty at the Texas Capitol in Austin on October 30 at 2 PM.

http://marchforabolition.org

Anonymous said...

I wish I could be there to give my support
Simone K (France)

Anonymous said...

I know I chose anonymous, but I however live in Marion Ohio and I have never heard of this case until I became a member on Change.org then I started reading all these postings, newspaper adds, Facebook and so on. I for one DID sign the petition, I also shared the petition to everyone I knew and a ton I didn't. I copied and pasted it so much I was blocked from several sites! I have been on the other site that was made where someone is going back and forth with Hank, as for that site... If YOU have something to say and if YOU can be so personal on a site like that then YOU should NOT hide behind a screen and key board. What are you hiding from? You want to get your message out there loud and clear then do it and own up to it. All of the nasty talk and smart A** comments only make you look bad yourself. Don't get me wrong, I know people have passion for these kind of cases but if you are going public then tell it all. I do not know Hank or anyone involved I have just read a ton of things about this case before I signed the petition. I think someone or a group of people are hiding something. That is obvious! I am not saying I think he is innocent or guilty, but I AM saying if there is evidence that can't prove either way that was never tested then it should all be gone over. Then all of this can be put to rest. Period. I do not see what the issue is behind that?!? If everyone is convinced this man did these murders then they would be glad to hand over whatever they have because then wouldn't it make him look even worse? Then wouldn't " put the nail in coffin". So the fact that they are so against him getting his hands on the items they are holding only makes them look bad and them look like they are hiding something. I firmly agree with the death penalty, I would rather see people ( HUNG) for crimes that are this bad.. so with all that said.. GLAD YOU GOT THE STAY HANK!! =) Now let's get this show on the road and get the DNA done. I hope the sites are updated so I can read and see what's going on as the days pass.

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