Monday, February 1, 2010

Hank Skinner Part X: The End

Compare the two photos below.  They are nearly identical. Nearly.
The student of history will recognize the photos to be of Vladimir Lenin surrounded by supporters and random members of the proletariat. That’s Lenin in the center. He’s wearing the dark coat that extends to the bottom of the photo.

Even a casual observer will realize that the second photo is simply an altered version of the first. Several people have been removed. Working counter-clockwise from Lenin’s head, the following people in the first photo are missing from the second: the man in the upper left corner with the pronounced full-facial beard and moustache; the man in the lower right corner with the dark eyes and dark beard; and the man just to the right of Lenin, the one with the hat and glasses, the one saluting.

I can’t identify either of the first two people who have gone missing. The third person, the one saluting, is Leon Trotsky. He criticized Stalin’s leadership, was exiled to Mexico, assassinated there, and removed from the Soviet’s official history.

The two photos are not oddities. They are not unusual, nor are they examples unique to the Soviet Union. Oppressive states sustain themselves in part by controlling information. People disappear from photos as they disappear from life; data are altered; inconvenient results suppressed or destroyed.

Even states that consider themselves enlightened, as do they all, fall victim to the temptations of controlling information.

I find it inconceivable that the prints lifted from a trash bag, containing a bloody knife, found at a murder scene, would not automatically be compared against state and federal fingerprint databases. I find it simply inconceivable.

I find it suspicious that a rape kit sent for post-conviction DNA testing, sent “to put a few more nails in that man’s coffin,” would simply disappear. As did the man with the full-facial beard.

I find it too convenient that broken fingernail clippings sent for post-conviction DNA testing, sent because John Mann “knew that bastard was guilty”, would simply vanish. As did the man with the dark eyes.

I find it deplorable that the state of Texas would refuse to reveal even the location of that rape kit and those fingernail clippings, to refuse even to acknowledge their very existence.

I find it reprehensible that the state of Texas, via its representative John Mann, would for seven months inform its citizenry that the hairs found clutched in Twila Busby’s lifeless hand justified its intent to kill Hank Skinner, when in fact that very evidence exonerated him.

And I find it execrable that those who have the power to intervene refuse to do so, refuse to insist that the DNA be tested and the fingerprints be compared prior to the execution of one of their own.