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News Scan

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Request For DNA Testing Halts Texas Execution: Los Angeles Times writer David G. Savage reports on the Supreme Court's block of the scheduled execution of convicted murderer Hank Skinner.  Skinner was convicted and sentenced for killing his girlfriend, Twila Busby, and her two sons, in 1993.  Police and prosecutors said the blood on Skiner's clothes came from the victims, and that he left bloody palm prints in the house.  His trial lawyer did not seek DNA testing of the crime-scene evidence at the time of the trial.  Skinner has maintained his innocence, and has sought DNA testing of key evidence for a decade.  The justices issued a stay of execution and said they wanted more time to consider Skinner's appeal.  It will probably be several weeks before the Court decides whether to hear the case.  Last year, the Court ruled 5 to 4 that the Constitution does not give convicts the right to demand DNA testing of crime-scene evidence.  The case, however, did not involve a prisoner facing execution.  Kent's post on "Eleventh Hour DNA Testing" briefly discusses the Court's stay.

"F.B.I.'s Crime-Fighting Web Site Focuses on Bank Robbers": New York Times writer C.J. Hughes reports on a new website being used by the F.B.I. to track down suspects of robberies.  The site is called BanditTracker NorthEast and features images of robbers in New Jersey and New York culled from security cameras over the past few years.  In a modern take on the "wanted" notices on post office walls, the site also includes information about the suspect in question, including height, sex, race and build.  Telephone numbers are also provided so people can call if they think they know the whereabouts of the suspect.  Now, through the use of this site, images and information can be posted within hours of the crime, diminishing the lag that law enforcement has experienced when information can take days to post. 

"Court Weighs Timing of Death Row Appeal": New York Times writer Adam Liptak reports on inmate Billy Joe Magwood's attempts at successive federal habeas corpus petitions, and his argument before the U. S. Supreme Court.  Mr. Magwood shot and killed an Alabama sheriff in 1979.  At the time, Alabama law allowed defendants to be sentenced to death only if they had committed murders in connection with at least one of several listed "aggravating circumstances." Though Magwood's crime did not fit any of those circumstances, he was sentenced to death in 1981.  In 1985, a federal judge ordered Mr. Magwood resentenced for unrelated reasons, and he was sentenced to death the next year.  Over the years, Mr. Magwood's lawyers have challenged his sentence on various grounds, but it was not until 1997 that they raised the question of whether he had technically committed a capital crime under Alabama law in the first place.  In 1996, AEDPA imposed strict limits on successive federal habeas corpus petitions.  Under the law, a second petition challenging Mr. Magwood's original 1981 death sentence would almost certainly be barred.  Jeffrey L. Fisher, a lawyer for Mr. Magwood, said his client was challenging his 1986 resentencing for the first time.  Mr. Fisher suggested that the new sentencing of Mr. Magwood restarted the litigation clock allowing for a new habeas petition.  Justice Scalia disagreed, stating that the same underlying crime as well as surrounding circumstances were present in both sentencings.  Justice Alito appeared to side with Justice Scalia when he reminded Fisher, "the only thing that is relevant [in habeas] is the judgment pursuant to which the Petitioner is held in custody."  The case is Magwood v. Patterson.

1 Comment

The blood on Skinner’s clothes was matched by DNA to Twila and Elwin.

What the media consistently fails to report is that blood spatter analysis was inconsistent with Skinner’s story that he was laying on the sofa during the attacks. The blood was too wide spread and on too many different surfaces. Medium velocity impact spatter and numerous other blood stains were found on his shirt. Most of the spatter was found on the shirt front, but some other very small stains were found on the back, possibly consistent with cast-off blood. There was a large amount of spatter on all sides of his jeans. This includes impact spatter and possible cast-off tracks on the front and back; it is on the lower surfaces and the higher surfaces.

This was confirmed by the defense’s own blood spatter expert.

So, Skinner lied when he said he was passed out on the couch. And the evidence shows he was the one bludgeoning Twila and stabbed Elwin.

I read that Skinner’s wife appeared on Larry King last night and lied about the spatter evidence. She deliberately omitted the defense spatter expert’s analysis on her website. However, the report was read into the record at the evidentiary hearings.

I'm really sick of all the lies by the abolish movement about this case.

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