Dispute over DNA tests has so far spared Skinner, convicted in 1993
Convicted triple killer Henry Skinner, spared from execution by a last-minute U.S. Supreme Court stay in 2010, again has been assigned a death date, even as an Amarillo federal court considers his fate.
Skinner, 59, was sentenced to die for the 1993 Pampa murders of his live-in girlfriend and her two adult sons. His case has gained international attention as he has fought to obtain DNA testing for a knife, ax-handle and other crime-scene evidence.
An Amarillo state district court set Skinner’s new execution date for Nov. 9.
Skinner, who claimed he was incapacitated by alcohol and codeine at the time of the killings, was one hour away from execution in March 2010 when the high court issued a stay to examine issues surrounding his case.
A second favorable Supreme Court ruling — upholding a prisoner’s right to seek DNA testing of evidence under civil rights law — resulted in the case being remanded to the Amarillo federal court.
Skinner’s lawyers were attempting to build a case before that court, asserting that the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals had violated the inmate’s civil rights in denying DNA testing, when, in mid-June, attorneys for the state petitioned for a summary judgment against the prisoner.
Skinner’s attorneys filed a counter-petition seeking a summary judgment in their favor, and that’s where the case remained Monday.
Gray County District Attorney Lynn Switzer successfully petitioned an Amarillo state district court to set a new execution date, a move Skinner’s attorneys denounced as “a transparent effort to put undue pressure on the federal courts to act quickly.”
Switzer’s office referred questions to Texas Solicitor General Jonathan Mitchell, who could not be reached for comment.