Sunday, April 18, 2010

News From Hank Skinner, Including Who Might Have Been Innocent

Hank Skinner has published his latest edition of Hell Hole News. In it he describes the events of his day of execution. Not many people can write of that after the fact.

He thanks by name many (he hopes all) of those who have tried to help him. I am mentioned somewhere near the middle of that impressively long list, as are The Skeptical Spouse and The Skeptical Niece.

Of greater interest to me ...
Hank lists the names of those he perceives to be actually innocent. I'll list those names below, in the order he listed them, and comment on each.

Jesse Jacobs:  Jacobs admitted to participating in a kidnapping that resulted in a death. According to my definition of actual innocence (did not commit or participate in the crime) that leaves him in a bad spot. Jesse nonetheless was one of the 69 people executed who had made it through my coarse filter in my Search for the 54. I have not yet scored him with my Actual Innocence Scorecard.

Leonnel Herrera:  Herrera was convicted of killing two law enforcement officers. I've written of Leonel Herrera. I scored him at 11. I believe Leonel Herrera was guilty as charged.

Odell Barnes:  Barnes was convicted of raping and killing a friend of his mother. He claims he simply didn't do it. This is a binary case; no shades of gray. Either he killed the victim or he didn't. Odell Barnes made it though my coarse filter, and I've been working on his scorecard. I'll post on him when I'm finished.

David Spence:  Spence was convicted of killing three teenagers. He claims he didn't do it. It's another binary case. I've written of David Spence. I scored him at 90. I think he was factually innocent but certainly executed.

Norman Green:  I have Green in the list of 451 people executed by Texas via lethal injection, he is number 171, but I have absolutely no information on him. That makes him a rarity in my database. I'll have to look into Norman Green a bit further.

Rick Jones:  Jones was charged with murdering a woman and then burning the body to cover up the crime. He admits to trying to cover up the crime, but denies being involved with the killing in any fashion. Richard Wayne Jones made it through my coarse filter. I have been working on his scorecard. I'll report when I'm done.

Ivan Murphy:  Murphy was convicted of killing a young woman, whom he knew, while robbing her. Ivan  Murphy didn't make it through my coarse filter. In my initial pass through each of the 451 executees, I gave him a coarse score of 2 out of 10. A coarse score of 4 or greater was required to trigger an Actual Innocence ScoreCard. Things don't look good for Ivan. However, I may generate a Scorecard for him simply because Hank listed him.

Roy Pippin:  I ranked Roy Pippen even lower than Ivan Murphy during my initial screening. I gave him a coarse score of 1 out of 10. It's better than zero, but it's not close to triggering an Actual Innocence Scorecard. Pippen, during trial, admitted to participating in a string of kidnappings, but not to the the deaths that resulted from the kidnappings. That defense fails to meet my definition of actual innocence. By actual innocence, I mean the person neither commited nor participated in the crime.

Lonnie Johnson:  Johnson admits to killing two white guys he claims attacked him because he was black. Johnson made it through my coarse filter, but just barely. I have not yet scored him. He was executed under Rick Perry's watch, so I may bump him up the priority list.

Gregory Wright:  Wright was convicted of killing the woman who had taken him in off the streets. He claimed that another homeless person taken in by the victim committed the murder. Wright made it through my coarse filter, but just barely. The evidence is confusing, and I doubt I will be able to disentangle it. Nonetheless, I plan to generate an Actual Innocence Scorecard for Gregory Wright. Wright was also executed under Rick Perry's watch.

After listing these people by name, Hank then mentioned "several others [who] had plausible claims of innocence or, serious questions about their actual guilt." Fitting that description, I have so far scored Johnny Frank Garrett at 91 and Robert Nelson Drew at 84. There will be plenty more to come.

Then Hank mentioned "Rodney Reed, [who] like me, is still alive, but just barely. I believe he is definitely innocent." I will look into the case of Rodney Reed, score him, and report back.

Finally, Hank asks "What about Anthony Graves?" I had not heard of Anthony Graves before. He seems to be another spending his days on death row, another that Hank feels might be innocent. I will look into his case as well, score him, and report back.

I have much to do.

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